In this May screenshot, U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin 23 operate a forward arming and refueling point during an exercise.

In this May screenshot, U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin 23 operate a forward arming and refueling point during an exercise. U.S. Marine Corps

Marines order safety review after deadly Osprey crash

DOD: too early to say whether Sunday’s incident was related to earlier ‘hard clutch’ problem.

The acting Marine Corps commandant is directing all units to review safety procedures following Sunday’s deadly MV-22B Osprey crash in Australia.

“Marines, when we have any training mishap, we must conduct a thorough and harsh review of our processes to confirm that our culture of safety is still strong,” Gen. Eric Smith said in an administrative message published Tuesday. “Caring for the families of any Marine lost in a training mishap is our primary concern, and we can never offer them all that they deserve as they deal with the loss of their loved one. I cannot speak for those families, but I believe they may take comfort knowing that every possible measure has been taken to prevent a future mishap.”

The service-wide safety review comes just days after two pilots and crew chief were killed and 20 other Marines were injured when their Osprey crashed on an island north of Darwin during a training exercise. Three Marines also remain hospitalized. What led to the crash is still being investigated, which will likely take months.

Sabrina Singh, the deputy Pentagon press secretary, said it’s too early to say whether the crash was related to previous incidents involving the Osprey’s hard clutch engagement, and that the Pentagon still has confidence in the aircraft.

“If anything changes, if these investigations lead to something that would cause us or a service to adjust anything about how we believe the Osprey should be used, we would do that. But at this time, we have confidence in that,” Singh told reporters Tuesday.

Smith, who remains assistant commandant during the unprecedented block on his nomination for commandant, ordered units to complete their review of “our culture of safety” by Sept. 15, with the expectation that they will “discuss, in detail, the elements of what it means to be a professional warfighting organization as it relates to the safe conduct of every event from training to combat.”

“Safety is not a peacetime concern; it is a warfighting issue. Every aspect of training from safe weapons handling to proper ground guides to the ruthless adherence to standards in our aircraft and vehicles, demonstrates that we are indeed professional warriors,” he said.

The message recommends that group discussions review a previous accident or a scenario that relates to their jobs, go over what led to the incident, and what could have been done differently. It also requires that junior Marines “provide honest feedback on perceived hazards; they should expect to do so without fear of reprisal.”

“Seniors 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 message said. “Commanders will record their observations of the discussions, what they indicate about units’ abilities to identify hazards and mitigate risk, and where we should apply additional resources.”

That feedback will have to be turned in to the commandant of the Marine Corps Safety Division by Oct. 15.