After Months of Delay, USS Boxer Finally Leaves San Diego and Sets Sail on Deployment

USS Boxer transits the Pacific Ocean
USS Boxer (LHD 4) transits the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 2, 2023. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Evan Diaz)

The USS Boxer, the heart of the next Marine-carrying task force, has finally deployed from San Diego after months of delays and mechanical issues that were driven, at least in part, by poor leadership aboard the ship.

A Navy official confirmed to that the Boxer set sail for her deployment on Monday. The official also confirmed that the ship would not leave the San Diego area before taking on a complement of MV-22B Osprey aircraft.

The Ospreys were grounded for months following a deadly November crash of an Air Force aircraft that claimed the lives of eight airmen. The flight hold was lifted in March, and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit began training to integrate the aircraft with the ship nearly two weeks ago.

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The deployment, first reported by USNI News, will also be the first operational outing of the Marine Corps' new amphibious combat vehicles, or ACVs, which replaced the aging amphibious assault vehicles, called AAVs.

The USS Somerset, which is part of the amphibious ready group that the Boxer commands, as well as more of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are currently in the waters off India.

In the latter part of 2023, Navy officials were adamant that the ship was getting ready to deploy despite the fact that it had sat in port for more than a year after having completed a $200 million, two-year overhaul.

A pair of command investigations into engineering issues on the Boxer revealed that during the early part of 2023 the Navy not only struggled to correctly repair the aging ship, but her engineering department was poorly led and dealing with issues that ranged from inexperience to allegations of assault among the crew.

When the ship finally did go to sea in August 2023, video posted online by San Diego Web Cam, a social media account that monitors the harbor, showed smoke billowing from its superstructure as it moved across the water just outside San Diego Harbor.

Despite the fact that local observers recorded radio traffic describing the event as an "engineering casualty," Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson, a spokesman for the Naval Surface Force, at the time said that the incident was connected to system tests.

Abrahamson claimed that there was "no current impact to the mission, and Boxer remains focused on executing its sea trials."

However, a defense official told earlier this month that the Boxer was originally supposed to deploy late last year.

The ship's strike group commander noted in a letter accepting one of the investigations that "every level of senior engineering leadership failed to provide a safe, professional and procedurally compliant work environment in engineering department," and he stressed that "these failures had direct, measurable impacts on USS Boxer's upcoming deployment and impeded the overall accomplishment of the strike group's mission."

The ship was investigated for at least three different engineering breakdowns that, according to the Boxer's strike group commander, were "caused by a lack of procedural compliance, substandard supervisory oversight, and general complacency by the crew."

The ship's current commander, Capt. Brian Holmes, was issued a "letter of instruction" for his part in the failures with the ship as its then-executive officer and, according to the strike group commander, "must continue to lead the ship and engineering department in their efforts to ensure procedural compliance and sound engineering watchstanding practices."

Related: At Least 3 Engineering Incidents and Poor Leadership Kept USS Boxer from Deploying, Investigations Reveal

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