House committee grills top marines about fatal AAV training accident

D.C. Bureau

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A House committee examined Monday the investigation into a deadly training accident aboard an amphibious assault vehicle that killed nine service members in California last year.

The report found the drowning deaths of eight Marines and one Navy sailor in July 2020 were the result of inadequate training, shabby maintenance, and poor judgment by commanders.

“We failed these brave young men,” Gen. Gary Thomas, the U.S. Marine Corps assistant commandant, told a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

The second highest-ranking officer in the Marine Corps said their deaths were preventable in many ways, but it comes down to one issue.

“The Marine Corps safety culture must improve and that marines at all levels must make better risk decisions,” Thomas said.

Parents of the victims told lawmakers the servicemembers saw red flags a week before their deaths.

“Jack Ryan told me about his concerns with the AAVs and that they sink all the time,” said Peter Ostrovsky, the father of Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky. “It was hard for me to believe that statement, but now I know there was more to the story.”

About a dozen marines have since been fired, but Rep. Jackie Speier, D-CA, wants more accountability for reckless or gross negligence.

“Firing in the military is not the same term as it is in civilian status,” Speier said. “They were all transferred, but they’re still in the military.”

Rep. Mike Johnson, R-LA, said every rank should feel empowered to voice safety concerns.

“How should a leader that raises these types of issues within their chain of command proceed when that chain of command is not responsive enough to ensure mission success and safety?,” Johnson asked.

Lawmakers are also debating whether to include reckless or gross negligence compensation for families in the next Defense Department budget. More than a hundred marines have died in training accidents over the last decade, including 60 in the past five years.

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