Marines Call for Safety Review After 5 Marines Die in August Training Accidents

August 30, 2023 3:52 PM
(from top left clockwise) Maj. Tobin Lewis, Capt. Eleanor LeBeau, Lance Cpl. Joseph Whaley, Maj. Andrew Mettler, Cpl. Spencer Collart.

The head of the Marine Corps has ordered the entire service to take a pause for safety after five Marines died during separate training incidents in August, USNI News has learned.

In a Tuesday message, acting Marine commandant Gen. Eric Smith called for a corps-wide safety review after three separate incidents in which Marines died in training – the death of a Marine in a shooting during training, the crash of a F/A-18D Hornet in California that killed the pilot and the crash of an MV-22B tilt-rotor that killed three Marines and injured several more.

An earlier version of this post called the safety review a stand-down but Marine officials clarified that training was ongoing.

“Marines, when we have any training mishap, we must conduct a thorough and harsh review of our processes to confirm that our culture of safety is still strong. Caring for the families of any Marine lost in a training mishap is our primary concern, and we can never offer them all that they deserve as they deal with the loss of their loved one,” reads the Tuesday message.
“I cannot speak for those families, but I believe they may take comfort knowing that every possible measure has been taken to prevent a future mishap. Safety is a key element of our warrior culture. When we lose Marines we are not only heartbroken, but we are also less ready for combat.”

    • On Aug. 17, Lance Cpl. Joseph Whaley was killed during a live-fire exercise during the 13-week Basic Reconnaissance Course at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
    • On Aug. 24, Maj. Andrew Mettler was killed piloting a F/A-18D Hornet in a crash during a training flight originating from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.
    • On Aug. 27, Maj. Tobin Lewis, Capt. Eleanor LeBeau and Cpl. Spencer Collart were killed when their MV-22B crashed on Melville Island off the coast of northern Australia. Five other Marines were hospitalized.

According to a service official, the five deaths prompted leadership to order the service-wide pause in operations to reiterate the basics safety tenants of each unit.

Download the document here

“I am ordering a unit level review of our culture of safety to be completed no later than 15 September 2023. I expect each unit to gather at the appropriate level (Bn, Sqdn, Plt, etc.) to discuss, in detail, the elements of what it means to be a professional warfighting organization as it relates to the safe conduct of every event from training to combat,” reads the message from Smith.
“Safety is not a peacetime concern; it is a warfighting issue. Every aspect of training from safe weapons handling to proper ground guides to the ruthless adherence to standards in our aircraft and vehicles, demonstrates that we are indeed professional warriors.”

In his message, Smith singled out examples like ensuring that Joint Light Tactical Vehicle drivers get enough rest and that Marines on firing ranges are wearing the right safety gear.

Last year, the Marine Corps ordered a safety standdown for aviation units after a MV-22B crash in Norway in which four Marines died.

“Although we are making significant improvements to lethality and our readiness for future challenges, we continue to lose nearly a platoon’s worth of Marines and sailors to training accidents and off-duty mishaps each year,” Smith wrote.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
Follow @samlagrone

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