Marines may charge Parris Island drill instructor for recruit’s death in 2021
Pfc. Dalton Beals, 19, died of a heat illness.
Brig. Gen. Walker Field, the commanding general at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina is considering whether to refer charges against a drill instructor for the death last year of Pfc. Dalton Beals, 19, Task & Purpose has learned.
An investigation into Beals’ death found the drill instructor at fault for not properly supervising Beals and other recruits and making them do extra physical training even though the temperature was in the 90s that day.
The Marine Corps said it would not publicly release the senior drill instructor’s name until after Field makes a decision on whether or not to refer charges in connection with Beal’s death.
“An Article 32 hearing has been conducted and a Preliminary Hearing Officer Report has been provided to the Commanding General of MCRD Parris Island/Eastern Recruiting Region, which includes recommendations as to referral of court-martial charges,” said Maj. Philip Kulczewski, a spokesman for Parris Island. “The Commanding General is considering the recommendations of that report at this time, and will make a decision as to referral of charges after consultation with legal counsel.”
Beals died on June 4, 2021, during the Crucible phase of recruit training at Parris Island. A subsequent investigation determined that his death was “likely avoidable.” The name of Beals’ senior drill instructor was redacted from the copy of the investigation obtained by Task & Purpose.
“Instead of appropriately taking into account the weather conditions (as reflected by yellow red, and black flag conditions throughout the Crucible), Recruit Beals’ team leader [REDACTED] intensified training for Recruit Beals’ team, including directing unauthorized incentive training throughout both days of the event,” the investigation says. “Those actions increased the impact of the weather conditions on Recruit Beals and other recruits in Group 2, Team 1.”
The Marine Corps uses flag conditions to alert Marines about whether it is safe to work and exercise outside. Temperatures of 90 degrees and above represent Black Flag conditions, during which, “Physical training and strenuous exercise suspended for all personnel (excludes operational commitment not for training purposes),” according to the Marine Corps.
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The command investigation into Beals’ death also found the senior drill instructor “did not have the maturity, temperament, and leadership skills” for the job, and recruits were reluctant to tell the drill instructor about their problems, including medical issues.
“While his performance as a senior drill instructor appeared to improve somewhat throughout the cycle, during the Crucible he demonstrated little leadership over his team, and at times appeared disinterested in leading or supervising them,” the investigation says. “Although it is impossible to determine, his perceived indifference to the well-being of recruits demonstrated prior to the Crucible, could have impacted Recruit Beals or other recruit’s willingness to seek medical attention when Recruit Beals was clearly showing signs of a heat injury during the Crucible.”
The cause of Beals’ death was determined to be hyperthermia, commonly known as overheating. On the day he died other recruits said that Beals “looked wobbily, drained, and didn’t look like himself,” and that he often slowed down, frustrating other recruits, the investigation found.
Beals was one of two recruits to die at Parris Island in 2021. Pvt. Anthony Munoz, 21, died on his first training day after falling from a balcony, the Island Packet reported in October 2021.
Field’s pending decision on whether or not to charge the senior drill instructor for Beals’ death comes almost exactly five years after another Parris Island drill instructor was sentenced to 10 years in prison for abusing recruits, one of whom was killed after he jumped over a stairwell and fell to his death.
Beals’ mother, Stacie Beals, said that she hopes that her son’s senior drill instructor is eventually charged and faces the harshest penalty under military law.
“You get one bad person that gets all these recruits in their hands and they take it to the extreme and they feel that they can do what they will and what they want instead of following the guidelines of the military, they need the harshest penalties,” Stacie Beals said, adding, “It’s not ever going to bring my son back.”
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