The Marine Corps has introduced interim policy changes to clarify the need for evaluations before small units join Marine expeditionary units, Marine littoral regiments or crisis response units.
The change comes after the July 2020 sinking of an amphibious assault vehicle during an exercise with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The tragedy resulted in the deaths of nine service members.
Three administrative messages published on Oct. 8 announced changes to three different Marine Corps orders, explicating stating that all units preparing to deploy must go through a combat evaluation within six months of the deployment.
“When enacted, these recommendations will help assure that another tragedy, such as this, did not occur,” Maj. Gen. Gregg P. Olson told reporters on Oct. 4. “It’s my belief that they’ll reinforce that the victims of this tragedy will not have died in vain.”
Despite previous policies that required all units to perform a Marine Corps combat evaluation, or MCCRE, before any deployment, the AAV platoon had not been evaluated before it set out on July 30, 2020.
Marine Lt. Col. Keith Brenize, the commander of 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion at the time, along with the AAV’s platoon commander, both told investigators they did not know that an evaluation was required for platoon-sized units.
An investigation into the formation of the 15th MEU said there was no record of any AAV platoon receiving a formal evaluation before deploying on a Marine Expeditionary Unit.
“Orders and authoritative documents, from HQMC down to and including the battalion level, plainly direct that the major elements forming a MEU will conduct a MCCRE prior to composite,” Lt. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III said in the investigation.
“Some of these documents are ambiguous regarding the requirements for units below the battalion and squadron levels, but I believe the spirit of these orders is clear in that all units deploying with a MEU should receive some type of formal evaluation by competent authority.”
Mundy recommended the Corps clarify all of those orders.
The guidance provided in the October Marine administrative messages is “reflective of the recommendations and findings resulting from investigations following the 30 July 2020 tragedy,” Capt. Andrew Wood, a spokesman for Headquarters Marine Corps, told Marine Corps Times in a Wednesday email.
The administrative messages were all signed by Lt. Gen. David J. Furness, the deputy commandant for Marine Corps plans, policies and operations.
“Parent unit commands are directed to evaluate and assess the training and readiness of personnel and equipment prior to forming as part of a task organized unit (e.g. an Engineer Platoon prior to attaching to an Infantry Battalion as part of a BLT),” was added to one Marine Corps Order, according to one of the administrative messages.
The changes provide increased guidance on how Marine air units are expected to go through that combat evaluation.
“To the maximum extent practical, this training should be flown as a live event, but MAW Commanders may authorize virtual if leveraging linked simulators provides a better training environment and resource management,” the new Marine Corps Order reads.
The changes also call for more oversight by the Marine expeditionary force commander for the units preparing to deploy, requiring them to report within 90 days if the units deploying have any staffing, equipment or training shortfalls.
“MEF Commanders shall notify (Deputy Commandant for Plans, Policies and Operations) of Service shortfalls resulting in causal factors (e.g., staffing, training, or equipping shortfalls) via their chain of command,” the new Marine Corps order reads.
It is then on the deputy commandant to “address service shortfalls,” with the appropriate Marine Corps components.