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Camp Pendleton Marines return to training with AAVs months after deadly accident

One Marine dead, eight others missing in amphibious assault vehicle accident off California coast
Posted at 6:17 PM, Apr 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-18 00:50:52-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Camp Pendleton Marines returned to the ocean Friday in amphibious assault vehicles, AAVs, to train nearly nine months after a deadly accident.

On April 9th, the Commandant of the Marine Corps allowed training to resume if an 18 step list of requirements was met by each Marine. The list includes extensive qualifications and training, passing an exam, safety boats during each training exercise in water, breathing equipment on board and completing evacuation drills on land and in the water.

AAVs were suspended from operation after an AAV sank during a training exercise off the coast of San Clemente Island July 30th. An investigation into the accident states a combination of factors led to the death of 8 service members. The report stated, "human and mechanical failures caused the sinking of the mishap AAV and contributed to a delayed rescue effort."

"The last thing any commander wants to do is to lose troops and so a lot of thought went into this before troops get back into these AAVs," Veteran and former ABC 10News Military Reporter Bob Lawrence said.

Marines started their training in the classroom last Monday, then took the AAVs into the Del Mar basin Tuesday through Thursday. After successfully rehearsing, they trained in the open ocean Friday.

They are not carrying any troops below deck or training with any ships yet.

When Lawrence was asked if the new protocol was enough to prevent another accident, he responded, "they will do everything in their power to prevent another accident but this is an inherently dangerous business that they're in so there can't be any guarantees."

These Marines are training in preparation for deployment in September.

The 18 tasks are:

1. All AAV/ACV crew members and embarked personnel conducting waterborne operations must possess current Marine Corps water survival qualification.

2. All AAV/ACV crew members and embarked personnel must qualify in the SVET with the WEC. No waivers to qualification. O-6 commanders may authorize temporary waivers to unique travelers (recon, trap recovery, etc.) Provided they are SVET or MAET and water survival qualification complete.

3. Ensure AAV/ACV crews meet training and readiness standards by billet to train with embarked personnel in waterborne operations.

4. All AAV/ACV crew members and embarked personnel must complete integrated training which includes at a minimum interoperability and safety training between AAV/ACV crews and embarking personnel. O-6 commanders may authorize temporary waivers to unique travelers (recon, trap recovery, etc.) Provided they are SVET or MAET and water survival qualification complete.

5. All AAV/ACV crew members and embarked personnel must complete evacuation procedures and emergency egress procedures drills on both land and water.

6. All AAV/ACV crew members must pass a common knowledge examination developed by the Assault Amphibian School (AAS) prior to resuming/conducting water operations.

7. All AAV/ACV personnel returning to the AA community from b-billets or other assignments must be tested and certified on their knowledge of operational and safety procedures in accordance with the respective training and readiness standards.

8. Ensure completion of risk management records prior to all operations.

9. In coordination with Marine Corps Safety Division, develop and implement a mishap lessons learned program through the unit safety officer.

10. Ensure all AAVs are compliant with applicable criteria. AAVs that exceed the mandated thresholds will not resume water operations until they are corrected, re-inspected, and meet those thresholds.

11. Waterborne operations safety architecture requirements:
a. Employ safety boats at all times for waterborne operations.
b. Unloaded AAVs and ACVs are no longer authorized to act as a safety boat.
c. One safety boat for five or less AAVs/ACVs and two safety boats for six or more AAVs/ACVs.
d. At a minimum, one unloaded AAV or ACV must be provided to each wave as a bump / recovery vehicle to receive personnel in the event of an emergency.
e. Positive communications established between safety boats, AA unit and ship.

12. All AAV/ACV crew members and embarked personnel will be equipped with and trained in the use of an AAV/ACV waterborne egress capability (WEC) that includes a supplemental emergency breathing device (SEBD).

13. Confirm the communication procedures used during emergencies prior to conducting waterborne operations with all participating units.

14. Conduct sea state assessment when operating without U.S. Navy amphibious shipping.

15. Ensure all operations with U.S. Navy amphibious shipping are conducted in accordance with appropriate directives. (Only applies to ship-to-shore and shore-to-ship movements.)

16. Assess water integrity prior to operations via splash team checklist.

17. Provide waterproofed copy of AA common SOP provided to every AAV/ACV.

18. Provide waterproofed copy of embarked troop brief provided to every AAV/ACV.