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Readiness Chairman Garamendi Convenes Hearing with Bereaved Families and Military Leadership to Discuss ‘Preventable’ Fatal Military Training Accidents

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), Chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, convened a hearing to discuss a fatal military training accident on July 30th, 2020 in California that killed nine service members. A recent Marine Corps command investigation into the accident explains that a “chain of failure” within the military led to these preventable deaths:

“On July 30th, 2020 nine young men who had volunteered to serve their country died because of a preventable training accident off San Clemente Island, California,” Garamendi said.

“A Marine Corps investigation into the accident showed that a chain of failures by commanding officers, lack of maintenance to assault amphibious vehicles, and inadequate training and communication standards led to the preventable deaths of these nine young men,” Garamendi continued.

“This is not an isolated incident. Right now, a cascading series of failures within the military is causing the U.S. to lose more service members in preventable training accidents than in combat. In the last five years, 60 Marines have died in the air, land, and sea during fatal training accidents,” Garamendi continued.

“My message to military leadership at today’s hearing is clear: this will not be tolerated,” Garamendi continued. “The culture of neglect must transform into a culture of safety. We will hold anyone who ignores the safety of our service members to account. As Chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, my subcommittee will do everything in its power to institute every possible requirement to compel the military to take the proper precautions to protect our service members from future accidents.”

“I would like to extend my personal and my subcommittee’s deepest sympathy and appreciation to Mr. Peter Vienna and Mr. Peter Ostrovsky—fathers of two soldiers who lost their lives during the July 30th training accident—for testifying before the Readiness Subcommittee today,” Garamendi said. “Our deepest condolences are with them and every family member of a service member who lost a life in a preventable training accident. Their testimony today provided critical insight into this issue. I cannot imagine how difficult it was to discuss these matters, and I thank them for their important testimony today,” Garamendi continued.

Upon convening today’s panels, Garamendi held a moment of silence for the nine service members who lost their lives on the July 30th accident, and entered their names into the Congressional Record. They are:

  • Private First Class Bryan J. Baltierra,
  • Lance Corporal Marco A. Barranco,
  • Private First Class Evan A. Bath,
  • Navy Hospital Corpsman Third Class Christopher Gnem,
  • Lance Corporal Jack-Ryan Ostrovsky,
  • Lance Corporal Guillermo S. Perez,
  • Corporal Wesley A. Rodd,
  • Lance Corporal Chase D. Sweetwood; and
  • Corporal Cesar A. Villanueva.

The following representatives from the Navy and Marine Corps provided testimony at today’s hearing:

  • General Gary L. Thomas, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps;
  • Vice Admiral Roy Kitchner, Commander Naval Surface Forces; and
  • Major General Gregg Olson, Assistant Deputy Commandant, Plans, Policies and Operations, Headquarters Marine Corps

The full video of today’s hearing is available here.

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