California Democrat Rep. Jackie Speier wants to know how a commander who failed to fully train and equip the nine servicemembers who died in July’s amphibious assault vehicle accident was appointed to the prestigious post of Inspector General of the Marine Corps.
Marine Maj. Gen. Robert Castellvi was commander of the 1st Marine Division in 2020 when a platoon of Marines and vehicles he was responsible for training, suffered a catastrophic mishap that killed eight Marines and one sailor. It was was the deadliest AAV training accident in the Corps’ history.
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Anger, disgust and unimaginable grief were some of the words used to describe the emotions felt by some of the families of the nine service members who didn’t survive that day.
The Marine Corps’ eight-month investigation into the deaths found that the Marines were sent on the deployment with defective equipment and without mandatory pre-deployment training like the Marine Corps combat readiness evaluation.
The investigation noted that Castellvi, as the division commander, was responsible for ensuring that the Marines were fully prepared for the deployment and he failed to do that.
At the time of the fatal accident, the AAV was transporting 15 Marines and one sailor form San Clemente Island, California, to the amphibious transport dock Somerset.
Just over two months after the incident, Castellvi was appointed to be the Inspector General of the Marine Corps where he oversees investigations into misconduct, readiness concerns and other institutional problems across the Corps.
“I met yesterday with family members of the AAV which you were in charge of,” Speier said Thursday.
“I must say, it’s a very painful thing for all of us, but I don’t quite understand how someone gets elevated to the position of an inspector general after being in charge of that particular disaster,” she said.
Speier’s remarks came at the end of a House Armed Services Military Personnel subcommittee hearing where lawmakers talked to the inspectors general of the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps.
Speier ended the hearing immediately after questioning Castellvi’s new job and she did not allow him to respond.
Castellvi, speaking through a Marine Corps spokesman, declined to comment on the lawmaker’s remarks.
“Major General Castellvi was best qualified and suited for the assignment,” Capt. Andrew Wood, a spokesman for headquarters Marine Corps, told Marine Corps Times.
The initial Marine Corps investigation into the sinking said Castellvi was one of the Marines responsible for the lack of training.
But Castellvi’s boss at the time, Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, commander of Marine Forces Pacific, recommended that Castellvi receive no disciplinary action.
Rudder said the Marine Expeditionary Unit could have made up for the training lapses of the Marines and noted that Castellvi, “was not the on-scene commander during the mishap.”
The Marine Corps fired at least two commanders for failures that led to the accident and senior leaders are considering more discipline for others involved.
The Naval Safety Center has not yet completed its investigation into the sinking, while in early April the Corps launched a third investigation led by Lt. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, commander of Marine Corps Forces Central Command, that will focus on the training and equipment readiness the occurred in the formation of the MEU.
In addition to the Marine Corps investigation, Capitol Hill lawmakers are searching for more answers from the Marine Corps.
On May 3, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger or one of his representatives will testify about the Marine Corps training safety record before the House Armed Services committee.
Rep. John Garamendi, a Democrat from California, said that during that hearing he will demand the Marine Corps to “explain in detail how the persons responsible will be held accountable.”
“I believe that there’s a significant history where that doesn’t happen,” said Garamendi, who is chairman of the readiness subcommittee.