The decision by Gen. David H. Berger, the service’s top officer, will be part of Castellvi’s permanent record and “must be considered if he is evaluated for promotion, retention, or roles of responsibility,” Wood said.
“This action typically prevents an officer from being promoted or serving in a role where he/she would be charged with the responsibility of caring for Marines and Sailors,” Wood said.
Investigators found that Castellvi, who at the time of the accident was the commander of the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Calif., failed to ensure that the Marines had received a required assessment known as a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation before their assignment at sea or that some of them knew how to escape a sinking vehicle.
Eight Marines and a sailor from that unit died July 30, 2020, after their 26-ton amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) sank off the coast of California during training.
The disaster has become an embarrassment for the Marine Corps, which celebrates its roots as an amphibious force capable of launching raids from Navy ships to contested enemy shores. Family members of the service members killed have decried the slipshod nature of their training, and lawmakers have questioned the Marine Corps’ safety culture.
A previous investigation released in March found that the vehicle’s sinking was “tragic” and “preventable,” with Marine officers who oversaw the exercise declining to use required safety boats and relying on vehicles that were falling apart and leaking. Castellvi was not responsible for decisions made at sea, the investigators found, but he “bears some responsibility for the failure.”
Other officers were disciplined or fired, but Castellvi was not, drawing criticism that the service was shielding general officers from accountability.
Castellvi was praised a couple of months after the disaster by his senior officer, Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, as he rotated out to become the Marine Corps inspector general. Heckl, speaking at a ceremony marking his departure, said Castellvi “has been exceptional” in keeping units prepared, “across the board.”
Berger could not be reached for comment to discuss his decision. But in a recent meeting with reporters at the Pentagon, he defended appointing Castellvi as inspector general despite the disaster. The initial investigation did not show that Castellvi had violated the military’s system of laws, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Berger said.
Berger told reporters that “there are no excuses” for failing to get the entire unit through required training.
“It’s not a function of money,” he said, indicating facilities needed for the water egress training were available. “There are no excuses for that at all, none.”
Castellvi had no comment, Wood said.
Those killed include Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 18, of Corona, Calif.; Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, Calif.; Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wis.; Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, Calif.; Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Ore.; Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Tex; Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, Tex.; Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 18, of Portland, Ore.; and Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, Calif.