Marine Major General Disciplined Over Deadly 2020 Training Accident

Maj. Gen. Robert F. Castellvi is the latest in a string of officers relieved of their duties after the deaths of nine service members off the coast of Southern California.,


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The Marine Corps has disciplined a two-star general for his role in the sinking of an amphibious assault vehicle off the coast of California in July that claimed the lives of one sailor and eight Marines, adding to a growing list of senior officers facing consequences from the mishap.

The service announced on Wednesday that Maj. Gen. Robert F. Castellvi, who commanded the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Calif., at the time of the deadly training accident and then became the Corps’ inspector general, would be permanently removed from his position as inspector general.

General Castellvi was “personally and formally counseled” by the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David H. Berger, said Maj. Jorge A. Hernandez, a Marine spokesman, noting that such action typically prevents an officer from being further promoted in rank or holding command.

The actions taken by Marine leadership against General Castellvi were reported earlier by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The amphibious vehicles involved in the sinking were assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which fell under General Castellvi’s command at the time. After becoming inspector general in October, he was temporarily removed from that position in April amid the investigation into the accident.

ImageMaj. Gen. Robert F. Castellvi was the commanding general of the 1st Marine Division at the time.
Maj. Gen. Robert F. Castellvi was the commanding general of the 1st Marine Division at the time.Credit…Cpl. Jailine Aliceasantiago/U.S. Marine Corps

An investigation whose results were released in March cited “a confluence of human and mechanical failures” that led to the sinking of the 20-ton armored vehicle — which runs on treads like a tank and uses water jet pumps to ferry Marines from ships offshore to battles on land — and hindered the initial efforts to rescue those aboard.

On the afternoon of July 30, nine amphibious vehicles were motoring through the water from San Clemente Island, a major Navy training area off the coast of Southern California, to a Navy ship offshore as part of a training exercise when one of them began taking on water.

Although the vehicle’s commander signaled for help, the investigation found that no safety boats were in the water to lend assistance. A second amphibious vehicle reached the stricken vessel about 20 minutes later, but the two eventually collided, turning the troubled vehicle broadside into an incoming swell. A large wave then swept into an open hatch, which caused the flooding vehicle to sink rapidly with 11 troops on board, killing nine.

The investigation determined that the vehicle that sank was improperly maintained and that those aboard were not adequately trained. The Marine Corps cited both issues in its rationale for firing General Castellvi.


A U.S. Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle of the type involved in the accident.Credit…Denis Poroy/Associated Press

The commander of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit at the time, Col. Christopher J. Bronzi, was relieved of his duties on March 23, according to a Marine Corps statement. The commanders of the battalion and company responsible for the sunken vehicle were relieved of their duties in October. Seven other service members were disciplined for their roles in the mishap, but the Marine Corps has not named them.

In an email, Major Hernandez said that General Castellvi would not make any immediate public statements and that the investigation was continuing.

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