Home News Marine lieutenant colonel faces discharge over fatal AAV sinking

Marine lieutenant colonel faces discharge over fatal AAV sinking

Lt. Col. Michael J. Regner (USMC)

Andrew Dyer

The San Diego Union-Tribune

A Marine lieutenant colonel and sergeant will face disciplinary hearings this week for their roles in a series of failures that led to the deaths of eight Marines and a sailor off the San Diego coast in 2020.

Lt. Col. Michael Regner, the former commanding officer of Battalion Landing Team 1/4, will face a board of inquiry into the matter starting Tuesday at Camp Pendleton, the Marine Corps said. Separately on the base, the former platoon sergeant of the Bravo Company platoon involved in the sinking will face an administrative separation board. The Marines did not release the sergeant’s name.

On July 30, 2020, Marines training with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit left the amphibious transport dock ship Somerset in their assault amphibious vehicles to train on San Clemente Island. Of the 13 vehicles that left the Somerset, several had mechanical problems on the island, including the one that sank. Four AAVs didn’t attempt the return trip to the ship.

One vehicle that did try to return began having problems when its transmission failed, leading to a series of cascading problems as water began filling the vehicle. The vehicle commander hesitated to order those on board to remove their heavy body armor and evacuate. Eight Marines and a sailor, ranging in age from 18 to 23, drowned.

Regner was removed from command of the battalion in October 2020. A Marine Corps investigation found that Regner should have known his unit’s assault amphibious vehicles were in poor material condition and should not have been operating in the ocean. The Marines had also not been properly trained in water evacuations from the vehicles. The investigation found that Regner and other leaders relied on land-specific training to evaluate the platoon’s readiness.

According to the investigation, the first time battalion personnel embarked on AAVs during waterborne operations was July 30, when they transited from the Coronado to San Clemente Island.

Regner’s board of inquiry is scheduled through Friday.

For the record:

9:03 p.m. Jan. 3, 2022: A previous version of this story incorrectly named the ship the Marines were operating on as the Coronado. It was the Somerset.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

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