Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
More than 20 West Coast Marine drill instructors disciplined since 2017 for abusing recruits
One recruit was called a terrorist. Another had his vest stapled to his skin. A third recruit was kicked by a Marine and a drill instructor ordered a fourth trainee to eat a pine cone.
Those are just some of the incidents that led to more than 20 Marines being disciplined at the Corps' West Coast recruit depot since 2017, officials there confirmed. At least two of those Marines are no longer in uniform as the service works to stamp out hazing and abuse at its entry-level training camps. The issue has been a renewed focus since the 2016 death of recruit Raheel Siddiqui at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina.
The Washington Post first reported on the discipline handed down to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego drill instructors. The paper obtained more than 700 pages' worth of investigations into alleged wrongdoing at the recruit depot.
"The incidents in San Diego, which have not been reported previously, include verified allegations of Marines assaulting recruits by kicking, punching and shoving, activity that is explicitly prohibited under the service's regulations, and other more minor incidents," the Post reported.
After one drill instructor asked a recruit who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent whether he was a terrorist, another Marine at the San Diego recruit depot reportedly referred to a Hispanic trainee as a "wetback," a disparaging and racist term.
That same recruit was then kicked by the Marine, who the Post reported was an instructor with Weapons and Field Training Battalion.
Another recruit, according to the Washington Post, reported that a drill instructor used a stapler on his torso. The recruit didn't speak up at the time, the Post reported, because he "did not want to anger [the drill instructor] more."
When the senior drill instructor who'd been told about the incident asked other recruits about potential wrongdoing, the Post reported the same Marine who'd been accused of using a staple had ordered him to eat a pine cone during a hike.
"The recruit said he did not report that incident right away because he thought that sort of thing happened at boot camp," the Post reported.
Marine officials stressed that the incidents represent only a "very small percentage" of drill instructors who "fall short and must be held accountable."
Recruits with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, stand at attention during a final drill evaluation at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, June 29, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Jesula Jeanlouis)
The most serious cases the Washington Post reported on happened more than two years ago, Capt. Martin Harris, a spokesman for the recruit depot. They were thoroughly investigated, he said, and the command took immediate action.
The drill instructor involved in the stapler and pine cone incidents was formally reprimanded and received administrative punishment that resulted in a reduction of rank, removal from his job as a drill instructor, and a forfeiture of two months' pay, Harris said. That Marine left active duty in January 2018.
The Weapons and Field Training Battalion Marine also faced a formal reprimand and administrative punishment, Harris added. That included a loss of rank, 60-days liberty restriction and forfeiture of pay. The Marine left active duty in September 2018.
"There has been significant progress in the area of professional conduct since that time," Harris added. That includes more training and education to prevent misconduct among drill instructors, which he said has led to a decline in misconduct over the last 24 months.
"More engaged officer and senior staff noncommissioned officer leadership at every level has helped to identify small infractions when they occur, allowing leadership to correct deficiencies earlier and prevent unprofessional behavior from taking root," Harris said.
Still, the cases — along with those of eight Marines at Parris Island — highlight the challenges the Corps has faced in combating mistreatment at its recruit depots. The investigation and trials following Siddiqui's death found a culture of hazing and abuse at Parris Island — not only toward recruits, but among drill instructors, too.
Siddiqui's drill instructor slapped him in the face after forcing the recruit to run back and forth across the squad bay, despite his having requested medical attention for a sore throat. After he collapsed and was slapped, Siddiqui suddenly ran toward a barracks stairwell and fell 40 feet to his death. He'd only been at boot camp for a little over a week, and his drill instructor had previously been accused of forcing recruits into industrial clothes dryers.
Recruits are told about the Marine Corps' zero-tolerance hazing policy before they even get to boot camp, Harris said. They're encouraged to report any violations without fear of retribution, he said.
"Additionally, recruits are repeatedly interviewed by officer leaders throughout training and asked specifically about any maltreatment they may be aware of," he said. "Moreover, chaplains, medical staff, mental health counselors, and other support staff are available to recruits throughout their life-changing experience at recruit training."
Almost all drill instructors serve with distinction, Harris said, but any who choose to violate regulations and orders will be quickly corrected.
"There is no place for hazing or abuse within our ranks," he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com
More articles from Military.com:
A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.
At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.
The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.
Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."
Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.
The Navy could deploy a second carrier to the Middle East if Trump orders an Iran surge, top admiral says
The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.
Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.
I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.
Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.
An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps
"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."
Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.
At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.
Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.
"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."
She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."
It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.
The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.
But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.
The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.