Marine Corps Orders Safety Review After Osprey Crash Marks Third Deadly Mishap in August

Marines hook up an M777 Howitzer to an MV-22 Osprey
Marines hook up an M777 Howitzer to an MV-22 Osprey during Marine Rotational Force – Darwin’s Exercise Koolendong at Mount Bundey Training Area, Australia, Aug. 25, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)

The Marine Corps' top officer has ordered the service to undergo a safety review in September following the crash of an MV-22 Osprey that killed three Marines during training in Australia, as well as two other deadly mishaps this month.

"We must conduct a thorough and harsh review of our processes to confirm that our culture of safety is still strong," Gen. Eric Smith, the acting commandant of the Marine Corps, wrote in an administrative message Tuesday.

The Marine Corps has had a notably deadly August. The crash over the weekend that left three Marines dead and three more seriously injured was preceded Thursday by an F/A-18D Hornet crash near Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, that killed the pilot. Earlier in August, a lance corporal was killed during a live-fire training event at Camp Pendleton, California.

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A senior Marine official told that, while the review had been previously scheduled, the recent mishaps prompted Smith to start it sooner.

In his message, Smith ordered commanders and supervisors "at all levels [to] review and document their unit's approach to safety in order to reinforce proper procedures, provide information, and gather feedback for future actions" by Sept. 15.

The vision for the review, as outlined in the memo, is for commands to have group discussions around a mishap or scenario that applies to those individual units.

"Junior personnel will be asked to provide honest feedback on perceived hazards; they should expect to do so without fear of reprisal," Smith wrote. Senior leaders "must be ready to describe how they would manage and mitigate risks, including when the level of risk exceeds their ability to mitigate it."

"Candor is expected and required," the four-star general said.

The Marine Corps' most recent mishap, the crash of an Osprey while on a multinational training exercise in Australia, claimed the lives of Maj. Tobin Lewis and Capt. Eleanor LeBeau, the aircraft's pilots, as well as Cpl. Spencer Collart, one of the crew chiefs.

The incident again raised concerns over the safety of the airframe since it came just a bit more than a month after the news that a mysterious clutch issue that the Marine Corps knew has been dogging the aircraft since 2010 downed a training flight in 2022, killing five Marines.

The Marine Corps has said it reduced the clutch issue malfunction by "99%" but at the same time conceded it didn't know what was causing the issue. The claim of a near-perfect fix led to skepticism from family members of those victims.

For Smith, the problem goes beyond just the Osprey.

"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 in the memo.

"Safety is not a peacetime concern; it is a warfighting issue," he added.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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