News Branch Marine Corps

Court martial begins for Marine drill instructor in ‘Crucible’ death of recruit

Beals, 19, died of heat stroke during the training event.
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dalton beals, marine corps, parris island
Marine Pfc. Dalton Beals. (U.S. Marine Corps)

A senior drill instructor testified this week she found Marine recruit Dalton Beals face down and without a pulse in a wooded area after Beal’s own drill instructor reported him “missing” during the ‘Crucible,’ the grueling two-day field exercise that caps Marine recruit training.

Beals, 19, died of heat stroke during the training event. Beal’s drill instructor, Staff Sergeant Steven Smiley, is facing a court martial this week at Marine Recruit Depot Parris Island on six charges stemming from Beals’ death, including dereliction of duty resulting in death.

Smiley’s trial began Monday and is expected to last roughly two weeks, according to Parris Island officials.

On July 18, the trial’s second day, a senior drill instructor that local media identified as Candace Luna testified that the second day of the Crucible in July 2021 was hotter than the first day, with temperatures over 90 degrees. At least one recruit, local reports said, had been recorded with an internal temperature of 108 degrees.

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On the stand during the Smiley trial, Luna reportedly confirmed several details described in the command investigation of Smiley’s death. Beals disappeared between two events during the Crucible, wandering away from his platoon looking for water after behaving in a manner many of his fellow recruits described as sleepy or “out of it.”

Beals’ drill instructors, including Smiley, did not realize Beals was gone for at least an hour. Luna then ran through nearby training areas looking for him, finding the recruit face down next to a fallen tree.

He did not have a pulse and medics called to the scene believed he’d been dead for at least an hour, according to the command investigation.

According to WJCL 22, Luna testified that Smiley said to her, “There goes my (expletive) career.”

In a statement, a Parris Island official said Smiley faces charges of:

  • Article 92 (Dereliction of Duty resulting in Death)
  • Article 92 (Dereliction in the Performance of Duties)
  • Article 92 (Violation of a Lawful General Order) x 2
  • Article 93 (Cruelty, Oppression, or Maltreatment of Subordinates)
  • Article 131b (Obstruction of Justice)
  • Article 134 (Negligent Homicide)

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