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What Happens When You Smile In The Shower At Parris Island? Former Recruits Testify
The public got its first glimpse Monday morning into the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island training platoon that saw one of its members die following an alleged altercation with a drill instructor when former platoon members testified at the court-martial of Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix.
The trial of Felix — the former Parris Island drill instructor of Platoon 3042, to which recruit Raheel Siddiqui belonged before jumping three stories to his death on March 18, 2016 — was in its fifth day at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., but it was the first time the court heard about the training environment inside Siddiqui’s former unit.
While the testimonies from five former members of 3042 varied, they pointed to a pattern of physical abuse at the hands of Felix that went beyond the physical corrections allowable by recruit training policy.
A few former recruits said Monday they witnessed Felix kick a recruit who was holding a foot locker, knocking that recruit to the floor. Another former recruit testified that Felix once grabbed him by the neck and pushed him up against the wall in the shower.
“My head made contact (against the wall) three separate times,” Lance Cpl. Tyler Stanley told the court Monday.
“He told me he caught me smiling again and I should stop.”
The next day, Stanley recalled, Felix chided another recruit for smiling in the squad bay and implied that Stanley should show that recruit what happens to those who smile.
Stanley fake-choked the recruit.
“I put my hands around (the other recruit)’s neck ...” Stanley testified. “I had an interlocking grip but did not squeeze. ... Felix told me to keep doing it.”
Another recruit, Stanley said, then finished the job before Felix told them to cut it out.
Felix faces multiples charges of violations of military law ranging from drunk and disorderly conduct to cruelty and maltreatment. Regarding 3042, he’s alleged to have hit recruits, kicked them, choked them, ordered them to choke each other and ordered them to choke themselves, according to a Marine Corps charge sheet that outlines the alleged misconduct. Regarding Siddiqui, Felix is alleged to have called him a “terrorist” and asked the trainee if he “needed his turban,” according to the document.
Bryce Herman, who is a former member of 3042 and now a former Marine — no reason was given for his separation from the Corps — testified Monday that he once heard Felix refer to Siddiqui as a “terrorist” during a senior drill instructor talk when the recruits were gathered around Felix.
“(Siddiqui) smells like a terrorist,” Herman recalled Felix saying.
When asked by prosecution about Felix’s demeanor when delivering these statements, Herman replied, “I believe it was very serious, sir.”
Herman also testified that on March 18, 2016, the day of Siddiqui’s death, “I recall Recruit Siddiqui grabbing his (own) neck, but I don’t know why.”
Herman said he saw Felix grab Siddiqui by the shirt, throw Siddiqui to the ground and then yank Siddiqui back up, but he could not remember what happened after that.
Lance Cpl. Marco Assuncao and Cpl. Brandon Yu, however, testified that they remember Felix referring to Siddiqui as a terrorist one time and then only in a joking manner.
Stanley testified that during a mail call Felix told the platoon to include Siddiqui, saying to the platoon, “It’s not like he’s a terrorist or something.”
On the day of Siddiqui’s death, Assuncao testified, Siddiqui fell to the floor while running a series of punitive sprints.
He then saw Siddiqui hold his hands around his neck. Felix, Assuncao said, told Siddiqui to get up, but Siddiqui did not follow the order.
“There were no sounds coming out of (Siddiqui’s) mouth or throat,” Assuncao told the court.
Felix, he said, then said to Siddiqui “I need to know if you’re OK.”
Assuncao then heard, but did not see, Felix slap Siddiqui.
The defense asked several of the former recruits Monday whether Felix had asked them to lie to NCIS. They said he did not.
Siddiqui is one of three Muslim recruits prosecutors say Felix “targeted.” The other men, Lance Cpl. Ameer Bourmeche and former Marine Rekan Hawez, were members of 3rd Recruit Training Battalion Platoons 3054 and 3052, respectively, in 2015. Both have testified that Felix called them “terrorist” and other inappropriate names, and that he ordered them into commercial clothes dryers; Bourmeche said he was burned when the dryer he was in was turned on.
Sgt. Michael Eldridge, a 3rd Recruit Training Battalion drill instructor who was also charged in connection with the Bourmeche case, testified against Felix on Friday as part of a plea agreement.
On Monday, the judge reminded the jury that just because Eldridge intends to plead guilty, it does not mean that Felix is also guilty of those crimes.
Felix is also charged with obstruction, alleged to have told Siddiqui’s platoon mates — potential witnesses to his death — to keep the incident under wraps inside the barracks. Before the trial, a judge ruled to limit discussion of Siddiqui’s death to the obstruction charge, and to explain why the former recruit couldn’t physically be present to testify against Felix as it relates to allegations of maltreatment.
Siddiqui’s death and subsequent investigation soon turned into a hazing probe of 3rd Recruit Training Battalion that has resulted in the biggest scandal on Parris Island since the infamous Ribbon Creek incident, when six recruits drowned on a punitive nighttime march into the marsh ordered by their drill instructor, who’d been drinking.
Siddiqui was on Parris Island just 11 days before he died. Five days before his death he said he wanted to die and said he would jump out of the squad bay window; but he was evaluated with a mental health professional and deemed fit to return to training.
On March 18, 2016, Siddiqui — who was reportedly ill — was trying to get permission to go to medical, but apparently didn’t request permission appropriately. Felix ordered him to run a series of punitive sprints across the length of the barracks. Siddiqui collapsed, clutching his throat. Felix was witnessed forcefully slapping Siddiqui in the face just before the recruit jumped up, ran out the back of the barracks and leapt over the stairwell. He died hours later at Medical University of South Carolina Hospital in Charleston.
The Corps ruled his death a suicide. His family has consistently disputed that classification and filed a $100 million federal lawsuit last month, claiming negligence on behalf of the government and questioning how — and how quickly — their son’s death was classified as such.
A verdict and sentencing in the case could come as soon as Saturday, according to a Marine Corps official. The prosecution expects to hear from its last witness Wednesday. More than 75 witnesses are expected to have testified in this case.
©2017 The Island Packet (Hilton Head, S.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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The leader of a Chicago-area street gang has been arrested and charged with attempting to aid the ISIS terrorist group, the Department of Justice said Friday.
Jason Brown, also known as "Abdul Ja'Me," allegedly gave $500 on three separate occasions in 2019 to a confidential informant Brown believed would then wire it to an ISIS fighter engaged in combat in Syria. The purported ISIS fighter was actually an undercover law enforcement officer, according to a DoJ news release.
My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead
"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.
They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.
As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.
But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.
Sen. Rick Scott is backing a bipartisan bill that would allow service members to essentially sue the United States government for medical malpractice if they are injured in the care of military doctors.
The measure has already passed the House and it has been introduced in the Senate, where Scott says he will sign on as a co-sponsor.
"As a U.S. Senator and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, taking care of our military members, veterans and their families is my top priority," the Florida Republican said in a statement.