News broke last week that Lt. Gen. Karsten S. Heckl, Commanding General of First Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF), relieved Lt. Col. Michael J. Regner, Commanding Officer of BLT 1/4. This was due to “a loss in trust and confidence in his ability to command” as a result of the Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) accident earlier this year off the California coast, according to a recent Marine Corps press release.
The I MEF press release also states that the “Command Investigation has compiled a substantial amount of information and data which formed the basis for Heckl’s decision, it is still ongoing as the Marine Corps continues to investigate, assess all relevant information, and take appropriate actions.”
On July 30, 2020, while off the coast of San Clemente Island, California, a Marine Corps AAV with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/4 encountered an issue that caused it to quickly sink. There was only enough time for about half of its crew to escape. The remaining crew members perished. Details of the exact cause of the accident have not been released at the time of this article’s publication.
But, as SOFREP has recently reported, the Marine AAV program is woefully outdated and lacks purchase in today’s age of warfare that is far more asymmetric than what the AAV was designed for. Was it a lapse in Lt. Col. Regner’s ability to command that caused the AAV accident? Should he be held accountable for the sinking of a vehicle that entered service in 1972 along a notoriously dangerous coastline?