Home News Marine Corps officially charges drill instructor for recruit’s death

Marine Corps officially charges drill instructor for recruit’s death

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Dalton Beals, 18, of Pennsville, New Jersey died during the final phase of US Marine Corps boot camp. (GoFundME)

Karl Puckett

The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.)

Nov. 11—The Marines are charging a drill instructor with negligent homicide in connection to the death of Dalton Beals, a recruit who died from extreme heat complications at U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in June 2021.

Brigadier General Walker M. Field has officially charged Staff Sgt. Steven Smiley with negligent homicide in addition to dereliction of duty resulting in death; cruelty, oppression, or maltreatment of subordinates; and obstruction of justice, the Marines said Friday.

Smiley’s name had not previously been released.

Field was the one who added the charge of negligent homicide to the recommended charges.

The case has been assigned to the highest level of Marine court martial, or trial, but no dates have been set.

“It’s still going to be a part of lengthy process,” Major Philip Kulczewski, a Parris Island spokesman, told the Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette.

Beals died June 4, 2021, during the Crucible, a rite-of-passage held during week 10 of recruit training at Parris Island, when recruits march 48 miles over 54 hours carrying up to 45 pounds of gear through 36 stations and problem-solving exercises.

In September, the newspapers reported that a Marine internal investigation into the case concluded that Beals’ death likely could have been avoided with better supervision and leadership and could result in negligent homicide charges.

The investigative report placed the blame for the death of the 19-year-old Pennsville, N.J., native on training and leadership failures, including company commanders, but particularly cites the role of Smiley, Beals’ Crucible team leader and a senior drill instructor.

The report critiqued Smiley “for conducting unauthorized incentive training notwithstanding hot weather conditions” during the Crucible, and failing to monitor the impact of the hot weather on Beals. The Marine investigation also found that recruits were called “pig, war pig, bacon, sweet bacon, bitches and retard.”

In addition to being a drill instructor, Smiley is a Marine Corps aircraft rescue and firefighting specialist. His awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal; Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal; Sea Service Deployment Ribbon; Global War on Terrorism Medal; National Defense Service Medal; and Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation.

Beals was assigned to Platoon 2040 in Company E after arriving at Parris Island on March 12, 2021.

Beals was demonstrating clear signs of heat illness before his death, according to the report, a copy of which was obtained by the newspapers. Other recruits noted that he was hunched over, sluggish and “leaning over like he was falling asleep.”

“Beals,” one recruit told investigators, “was out of it.”

During the second day of the Crucible, about 90 minutes after Beals had completed one of the training events, which included a four-mile hike, he was found unconscious on Page Field, a former airfield on the southeast corner of the depot. Efforts to revive him failed. He had been missing for an hour.

Back home in New Jersey, Beals was known for his athletic ability, and his kindness.

“I’ve come to the realization that his death was preventable,” Beals’ mother, Stacie Beveridge Beals, told the newspapers in August. “Had it been an accident, it would be easier to swallow. Had protocol been followed, my son would still be here.”

This story was originally published November 11, 2022 2:43 PM.

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