Marines relieve commander of battalion involved in training accident that killed nine troops

Lt. Col. Michael J. Regner speaks after taking command of 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 21, 2019.


By CAITLIN DOORNBOS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 14, 2020

The Marine Corps has fired the battalion commander whose unit lost nine service members when an assault amphibious vehicle sank during a July training accident off the Southern California coast.

Lt. Col. Michael J. Regner was relieved Tuesday from command of the Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, “due to a loss in trust and confidence in his ability to command,” said a Marine Corps statement issued late Tuesday. The training accident was the deadliest involving an assault amphibious vehicle in Marine Corps history, the service said.

Fifteen Marines and a sailor were aboard the 26-ton vehicle on July 30 when it sank more than a half-mile from San Clemente Island. They had just finished routine waterborne training with the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group.

The sailor and eight Marines died; seven Marines were rescued. Two investigations into the incident are underway by I MEF and the Naval Safety Center.

Lt. Gen. Karsten S. Heckl, commander I Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., relieved Regner of command, according to the statement.

“Although 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,” the statement said.

A Marine Expeditionary Unit is composed of about 2,200 Marines and sailors broken into four elements. Its battalion landing team consists of light armored reconnaissance vehicles, artillery and assault amphibious vehicles and is part of the 1,200-person ground combat element, according to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit website.

Twitter: @CaitlinDoornbos