(WASHINGTON) — Twenty drill instructors at the Marine boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina face possible criminal charges or administrative action for the abuse and mistreatment of recruits, the Marine Corps said. The actions result from a broad review of the behavior of Marine Corps drill instructors triggered by the investigation into the death of a Muslim recruit.
In a statement released Thursday, Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Commandant, said that the death of Marine recruit Raheel Siddiqui was a suicide. In March, the 20-year-old fell three stories at his barracks after arriving just days earlier.
Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell had asked the Marine Corps, on behalf of Siddiqui’s family, to ascertain if his Muslim faith and Pakistani heritage may have resulted in hazing that contributed to his death.
“Findings from the Siddiqui investigation conclude that Siddiqui’s death was the result of suicide,” said Neller.
The Marine Commandant added that three command-level investigations into allegations of abuse and maltreatment at Parris Island “revealed departures from the policies and procedures established for Marine Corps recruit training, specifically within three platoons within Third Recruit Training Battalion.”
“When America’s men and women commit to becoming Marines, we make a promise to them. We pledge to train them with firmness, fairness, dignity and compassion. Simply stated, the manner in which we make Marines is as important as the finished product. Recruit training is, and will remain, physically and mentally challenging so that we can produce disciplined, ethical, basically-trained Marines,” said Neller.
Commanders and senior enlisted advisers at several levels “were relieved in the wake of Recruit Siddiqui’s death and a number of drill instructors have been suspended,” the statement said.
“Currently, twenty Recruit Training Regiment personnel have been identified for possible military justice or administrative action,” the statement said. Officials have said that the majority of those under investigation had been drill instructors.
The investigations found “recurrent physical and verbal abuse of recruits by drill instructors, with a noted insufficiency of oversight and supervision at various command levels” said Neller’s statement. And the abuse was not limited to new recruits, investigators found that new drill instructors were also mistreated by more experienced drill instructors.
The investigation into Siddiqui’s death also found that his drill instructor had been improperly assigned for duty even while he was under investigation “for a previous allegation of assault and hazing.”
The broader look at the circumstances into Siddiqui’s death also determined there were “anomalies and inconsistencies in the policies and procedures responding to suicidal ideations or statements.”
Neller added, “We mourn the loss of Recruit Siddiqui, and we will take every step necessary to prevent tragic events like this from happening again.”
The Marine Commandant has endorsed corrective actions that have been implemented at the Marine’s recruit training depots. The Parris Island recruit depot is the facility that puts Marine recruits who live east of the Mississippi River through the rigors of its intense 13-week boot camp. The Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California, trains Marine recruits from states west of the Mississippi.
The corrective changes include a review and revision of mental health processes, procedures, and suicide prevention protocols at the depots.
Under the changes there will be a greater officer presence at the depots as well as additional visibility and review of investigations by senior commanders. Personnel being investigated “for recruit abuse, hazing, or maltreatment” will face a mandatory suspension and there will be changes to the assignment process of drill instructors and officers to the depot.
There will also be a zero tolerance for “hat hazing” — which is the hazing among drill instructors.
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