Documents recently released through the Freedom of Information Act to The Washington Post reveal rogue, Marine Drill Instructors feel compelled to impose their will on recruits resulting in serious injury … and death.
The Post outlines several cases where instructors, one with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, assaulted, caused chemical burns to a recruit and allegedly caused one recruit to fall 40 feet to his death.
The Post’s story starts with a Marine Corps recruit who was hazed by his drill instructor suffering second and third-degree chemical burns on his buttocks so severe that he needed skin grafts.
The Post reports documents exposed the injuries, so severe recruit’s skin was “liquefied,” occurred after he was ordered to perform unauthorized exercises under an upside-down laundry bin on a floor covered in bleach then required to stay in his wet pants for hours. The recruit reluctantly told another drill instructor about his burns that night but stayed in training for a few more days. His condition deteriorated after he was told that he would not be able to graduate with his peers if he sought medical attention.
In earlier reporting by the Post a Marine official disclosed the drill instructor, former Sgt. Jeffrey VanDyke, was sentenced in 2014 to a year in military prison after being convicted at court-martial of numerous charges of cruelty and maltreatment, assault and failure to obey a lawful order in the case. But the severity of the recruit’s December 2012 injuries, considered among the most egregious suffered by a recruit in years, has not previously been disclosed.
The case, detailed by the Post, was among thousands of pages of documents released through FOIA by the Marine Corps and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). Combined, they show that a hazing scandal that erupted last year at Parris Island following the death of a recruit, Pvt. Raheel Siddiqui, is part of a history that includes dozens of cases of hazing and abuse against recruits in the past five years.
Some may argue recruits need to be broken before they earn the right to be called Marine. But most would probably agree, the horrors coming out of Parris Island are more heinous and criminal than a rite of passage. When people die, or require extensive medical attention … the instructors, and The Corps, need to be held accountable.
According to the Post, Pvt. Raheel Siddiqui, is part of a history that includes dozens of cases of hazing and abuse against recruits in the past five years.
The Post reports Siddiqui, 20, died at Parris Island March 18, 2016. The recruit fell 40 feet over a railing after facing physical abuse from his drill instructor, Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, the documents reveal. Separately, Felix also is accused of putting another Muslim recruit in an industrial-sized clothes dryer and turning it on repeatedly in July 2015. He and another former drill instructor, Sgt. Michael K. Eldridge, face charges that include cruelty and maltreatment, being drunk and disorderly, failing to obey a lawful order and making false official statements in that case.
Former Pvt. Thomas Jacob Weaver was the first to step forward with allegations that have now spawned the biggest investigation at Parris Island in decades, according to the Post.
Weaver tells the Post he was in bed late one night, near the end of his three months at Marine Corps boot camp, when several drill instructors burst into his platoon’s room. Many of them smelled like they had been drinking whiskey, he said, and they ordered the recruits to crawl over cement floors covered in laundry detergent.
Soon after, the instructors left the room and then abruptly returned. One of them demanded to know where he could find “the terrorist.” Weaver knew immediately who he was talking about: a fellow Marine recruit who is Muslim.
“We heard the door slam, and then we heard screaming, and then we heard loud noises, and then they left,” Weaver said. “And then I saw [the recruit] come back half-naked, and some of us ran over to check on him. And he told us that they had stuck him in the dryer for a couple of minutes and let him spin.”
According to the Post Gen. Robert B. Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, has said that hazing and abuse of recruits will not be tolerated. The service has responded to the cases that emerged last year by increasing the number of officers and drill instructors who oversee recruits and reemphasizing in training the responsibilities that go with supervising Marine recruits, said Capt. Joshua Pena, a Marine spokesman.
At least 20 other hazing investigations involving drill instructors have been detailed by the Marine Corps and released through the Freedom of Information Act in the last few weeks in a rolling fashion, according to the Post.
With such serious allegations against The Corps, one would think the mainstream media would make the issue front-page news, but it’s only through FOIA that people are starting to learn the extent of the problem.
Retired Maj. Gen. Melvin Spiese, who oversaw boot camp training from May 2008 to August 2010 as commander of the service’s Training and Education Command, tells the Post he is “offended and massively bothered” by any effort in the Defense Department to withhold information that “belongs to the American people.”
“Those are the sons and daughters of Americans, they are Americans, and the services and leaders are accountable to the nation for how they are handled and treated,” he said. “I believe transparency and accountability would have been helpful — it would have forced a very hard internal look of not just trying to clean things up, but answer questions.”
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