Marine Infantry Battalion Commander Fired at Camp Pendleton for 'Loss of Trust and Confidence'

Infantry Marine with a mock M4 carbine during a simulated small boat raid
An infantry Marine assigned to 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, provides security with a mock M4 carbine during a simulated small boat raid at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Sept. 11, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brendan Mullin)

The commander of 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, at Camp Pendleton in California was relieved of command last week, according to a statement from the Marine Corps.

Lt. Col. Christopher O'Melia was fired from his role as battalion commander on March 26 "due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to continue to serve in that position," Marine spokesman Lt. Col. Lucas Burke told in an email.

"There is no more sacred position in this division than that of a commanding officer," Maj. Gen. Benjamin Watson, the commanding general of 1st Marine Division who relieved O'Melia, said in an emailed statement. "Our Marines and sailors deserve the absolute best leadership the Marine Corps can offer, and I am committed to providing them the leadership they deserve."

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Lt. Col. Jonathan Wagner, a prior-enlisted Marine who served as the operations officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, deploying as part of Marine Rotational Force-Southeast Asia, has since taken command.

The 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, website had already been updated to reflect the change, with O'Melia's biography replaced with Wagner's before news publicly broke about the dismissal. While O'Melia's biography is currently unavailable, a website for the 12th Marine Corps District showed that he served as commander of Recruiting Station Los Angeles until 2021. He took command of 1st Battalion in July 2023.

A post on a popular military-focused social media account, NotInRegz, garnered mass attention late last year after O'Melia allegedly made comments during a battalion-wide uniform inspection comparing it to the bombing at Abbey Gate during the August 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan.

According to the post, which had comments from Marines claiming to have been members of the unit confirming the incident, O'Melia allegedly likened the failed uniform inspection to the "complacency" of Marines from 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, that he said ultimately led to the deaths of 13 service members.

"2/1 was getting ready to redeploy when they got the call. Do you think they were ready, about to redeploy?" O'Melia allegedly said, according to the post. "They were complacent, when everything went down. Not to speak ill of the dead, but they weren't prepared."

The Marine Corps did not respond to a inquiry as to whether the incident was related to O'Melia's firing.

O'Melia is the second battalion commander to be relieved of command at the 1/4 in recent years. Lt. Col. Michael Regner was fired in October 2020 after eight Marines and one sailor were killed when their amphibious assault vehicle, or AAV, sank off the coast of Camp Pendleton during training.

An investigation later found that mass maintenance oversights as well as training and readiness evaluations of Marines and AAVs alike were at fault. Marine Corps officials stated that Regner's relief was due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command as a result of the incident. could not reach O'Melia for comment.

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