A Navy captain who was commanding the amphibious transport dock Somerset in 2020 when a fatal Marine Corps assault amphibious vehicle mishap occurred will not be going on to command an aircraft carrier, Navy officials confirmed Monday.

Navy Capt. John W. Kurtz commanded the amphibious transport dock Somerset on July 30, 2020, when the amphibious assault vehicle sunk off California, killing eight Marines and a sailor.

A platoon of amphibious assault vehicles left the Somerset on the evening of the mishap and used two other amphibious assault vehicles as safety boats, because other boats promised by the Somerset were not operational, an investigation found.

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro issued Kurtz a censure letter in June 2022 that noted that an investigation into the sinking “did not establish that any of USS SOMERSET’s actions or inactions caused the sinking.”

But it also states that Kurtz failed in his duties to oversee amphibious assault vehicle operations as the primary control officer.

“As the primary control officer, you ultimately bear responsibility to ensure positive control and leadership oversight over waterborne AAV operations and you failed to do so,” Del Toro wrote.

Kurtz’s name appeared in late 2022 on a fiscal 2024 aviation major command screening board to helm a carrier, Navy Times reported in November 2022.

But the following month, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday removed Kurtz’s name from the selection list “pursuant to his authorities,” the CNO’s spokesperson, Cmdr. Courtney Hillson, said in an email Monday.

Kurtz’s removal was based on the “adverse information” in the secretarial censure letter and the Navy’s investigation into the mishap, she added.

Task and Purpose first reported Gilday removing Kurtz from the list.

A Marine Corps investigation into the incident found serious deficiencies and errors in judgment made by top leaders, while the Navy investigation mostly exposed flaws in the way the two services interacted during amphibious assault vehicle operations.

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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