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Marine Corps inspector general suspended pending third investigation into AAV accident

At the end of April, the Marine Corps suspended Maj. Gen. Robert Castellvi, the inspector general of the Marine Corps and former 1st Marine Division commander, from his duties pending the outcome of a third investigation into a deadly sinking accident.

Prior to taking on the role as inspector general of the Marine Corps, Castellvi was the commander of the 1st Marine Division, responsible for the training and readiness of the Marines of 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion and 1st Battalion, 4th Marines.

The service members were attached to the 15th MEU when an amphibious assault vehicle sank off the California coast killing eight Marines and one sailor.

“The Commandant of the Marine Corps suspended Maj. Gen. Robert F. Castellvi from serving as the Inspector General Marine Corps pending the outcome of the investigation led by Lt. Gen. Mundy into the formation of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit,” Marine spokesman Capt. Andrew Wood confirmed to Marine Corps Times in a Monday afternoon email.

The revelation initially came during a Monday House Armed Services Committee readiness subcommittee hearing about the July 2020 AAV mishap that led to deaths of nine service members.

During the hearing Rep. Jackie Speier D-California, asked Gen. Gary Thomas, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, who was responsible for the readiness of the MEU at the time of the incident.

“So that was Gen. Castellvi correct? … He was found responsible for a lack of training, no action was taken against him and up until last week he was in fact the inspector general for the Corps, correct?”

“That is correct,” Thomas said.

Speier said, “And he is now on administrative leave, I believe?”

“He has been suspended from his duties, that’s correct,” Thomas replied.

The Marine Corps’ initial investigation into the accident recommended that the general receive no discipline because the training deficiencies that led to the deaths of the service members could have been fixed by the 15th MEU and because, “he was not the on-scene commander during the mishap.”

The decision was seen by many of the families, and others focused on Marine Corps safety issues, as an example of rank protecting senior Marines from accountability.

“Why are our generals and admirals so rarely held responsible, or made accountable, for noncombat preventable training deaths?” Michael H. C. McDowell wrote in a Marine Corps Times opinion piece on Monday. “Why, instead, do they all too often penalize lower ranks, in a shameful pass-the-blame game?”

McDowell lost his son, Marine 1st Lt. Hugh Conor McDowell, 24, in a light armored vehicle rollover in 2019, causing him to dedicate his life to preventing further mishaps and holding Marines accountable for their actions.

“I welcome the action against him,” McDowell told Marine Corps Times in a Monday email, noting that if it was a conciliatory bribe to pacify the parents of the troops and Congress, “it is too clever by half.”

“Where is the responsibility for his mates the three stars and four stars and even one stars?” he asked. “It is a systemic problem of blaming down and never up.”

Castellvi came under fire again recently when The War Horse published a story on his role in covering up the exact reason why a lieutenant colonel was relieved from his position as commander of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion.

Marine Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala was relieved from 1st Recon after an investigation, signed off on by Castellvi, found credible evidence that Zavala had beat his wife.

Despite a push by the unit’s public affairs officer Capt. Paul Gainey to be open about the reason for the relief, The War Horse reported, at the order of Castellvi the Marine Corps just said that Zavala was relieved for a “loss of trust and confidence,” the standard response given every time a commander is fired.

Castellvi has not be reassigned at this time, Wood told Marine Corps Times.

The acting Marine Corps inspector general is Carlyle E. Shelton, he said.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated by Marine Corps Times as it learns more.

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