The commander of a Marine infantry battalion in the 1st Marine Division has been fired for what the Marine Corps called “a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to continue to serve in that position,” according to a statement from the division.

On March 26, Lt. Col. Christopher O’Melia was relieved as the commander of 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment by Maj. Gen. Benjamin T. Watson, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, the division’s statement to Task & Purpose says.

“There is no more sacred position in this Division than that of a Commanding Officer,” Watson said in the 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,”  Watson said.

Marine Corps Times first reported that Watson had relieved O’Melia.

O’Melia’s biography had been scrubbed from the 1st Marine Division website by Monday night and was not readily available through other means. 1st Marine Division authorities did not return an email from Task & Purpose asking for further information on O’Melia’s firing Monday night.

The Marines, like all military services, generally do not disclose the specific reasons when a commander is relieved of command and did not in O’Melia’s case. Instead, phrases akin to “loss of confidence” are almost universally announced as the reasons for relief, regardless of the underlying rationales.

Military commanders can be relieved for a wide variety of reasons including poor performance or leadership, inappropriate behavior to personal issues unrelated to their job. In 2024, the Navy has relieved three commanders — two of submarines and one leader of a Special Warfare group — after they were arrested for driving while intoxicated.

The Marines fired two commanders from the School of Infantry-West in March. Unlike the Navy, the Marines do not publicly announce relief of commanders, which often trickle out only when media discovers them.

The absence of specific information often creates a vacuum that is filled by rumors, innuendo, and conspiracy theories, most of which inevitably are proven untrue.

Headquartered at Camp Pendleton, California, the 1st Marine Division bills itself as the oldest, largest and most decorated Marine division of about 20,000 men and women. A battalion is generally made up of about 800 marines.

UPDATE: 04/02/2023; this story was updated with information from the 1st Marine Division.

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