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Marine Corps IG suspended after probe of 2020 accident that killed nine

U.S. Marine Corps Inspector General Maj. Gen. Robert Castellvi was put on administrative leave after a 2020 accident at Camp Pendleton, Calif., which killed a platoon of nine service members, a Confressional subcommittee was told on Monday. Photo courtesy of DVIDS
U.S. Marine Corps Inspector General Maj. Gen. Robert Castellvi was put on administrative leave after a 2020 accident at Camp Pendleton, Calif., which killed a platoon of nine service members, a Confressional subcommittee was told on Monday. Photo courtesy of DVIDS

May 3 (UPI) -- A Marine Corps officer found partially responsible for the deaths of nine servicemen in a 2020 exercise was suspended, it was learned on Monday.

The information came in testimony on Monday before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness.

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Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., asked if Marine Inspector General Maj. Gen. Robert Castellvi had been put on administrative leave after an investigation found that he "bears some responsibility" for the fatalities.

"He's been suspended from duties, that's correct," responded witness Gen. Gary Thomas, Marine Corps Assistant Commandant.

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The revelation was first reported by Task and Purpose.

On July 30, 2020, During an at-sea pre-deployment training exercise of the 15th Marines Expeditionary Unit, eight infantry Marines and one Navy corpsman drowned as the 26-ton amphibious assault vehicle transporting them to amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset sank.

In the ensuing Marine Corps investigation, Col. Christopher J. Bronzi, commander of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was relieved of duty in March 2021 due to a "loss of faith and confidence in his ability to command," a Marine Corps statement said.

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The investigation also faulted Castellvi, commander of the 1st Marine Division, and noted that the platoon aboard the AAV had not completed its mandatory Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation, or MCCRE, prior to the accident.

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"Although the failure of the AAV Platoon to conduct a MCCRE was not a causal factor in the mishap, a MCCRE may have exposed the AAV Platoon's deficiencies in training and readiness identified in the investigation," wrote Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, head of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific in his endorsement of the investigation.

Although Rudder chose not to discipline Castellvi at that time, the congressional testimony indicates that Castellvi was later put on administrative leave.

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