Opinion: Marine deaths deserve a public accounting as Osprey accidents continue


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It is heartbreaking to hear that all five Camp Pendleton Marines aboard a MV-22B Osprey that crashed during a training mission in Imperial County on Wednesday were killed. It’s also heartbreaking to hear Maj. Gen. Bradford Gering, the commanding general of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, refer to the crash as a “tragic mishap.”

He surely meant well, but a mishap is an accident caused by bad luck. Fatal crashes like this happen too often in the Air Force and Marines to quickly chalk them up to misfortune. This is the second fatal Osprey crash this year — four Marines died in a crash during a NATO training exercise in Norway in March — and the ninth since 2000. There have been 34 Osprey crashes overall in that span. According to a report by The San Diego Union-Tribune military reporter Andrew Dyer, the Osprey has been “plagued by safety and maintenance issues.”

Twenty-three members of the U.S. military died in two fatal crashes in 2000, then four died in 2010, two in 2012, one in 2014, two in 2015, and three in 2017, according to the Aviation Safety Network website.

The Marines acted swiftly this week to recover the wreckage of the aircraft near Glamis and to promise an investigation. Investigations of this sort can take months to be released to the public, but this one must be shared as soon as it’s done. The tragic deaths of five Marines and the troubled history of the Osprey demand a thorough probe and a public accounting of what happened. As Dyer reported, Ospreys are “key to both Marine and Navy aviation operations as the aircraft is the only one capable of transporting weighty F-35 Lightning II engines to and from aircraft carriers at sea.” At a certain point, the military needs to compare the Osprey’s usefulness to the rising death toll of military members who accept the life they choose is dangerous but don’t expect to die while training.


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