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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.
Marine Corps boot camp is renowned for turning young men and women from civilians into Marines. It is rightfully known as the most rigorous recruit training in the US military, but for some drill instructors, it just wasn't tough enough.
The Washington Post recently obtained documents detailing incidents wherein over 20 Marines have been disciplined for misconduct just at MCRD San Diego, one of two recruit depots, since 2017. That year is relevant, because Marine recruit training was supposed to be reset after the 2016 suicide death of Pvt. Raheel Siddiqui, who killed himself after being viciously hazed, which included racial and ethnic slurs and being put in an industrial clothes dryer.
SAN DIEGO —The Marines say changes in the way they train recruits and their notoriously hard-nosed drill instructors have led to fewer incidents of drill instructor misconduct, officials told the Union-Tribune.
Their statement about training followed an Oct. 5 Washington Post report revealing that more than 20 Marines at the San Diego boot camp have been disciplined for misconduct since 2017, including cases of physical attacks and racist and homophobic slurs. The story also was published in the Union-Tribune.
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.
A Marine serving in one of the service's highest-profile positions was admonished after hazing claims emerged when he took a lighter to subordinates' collars to burn threads from their uniforms — while the Marines were wearing them.
Sgt. Francis Frazier, the 38th Color Sergeant of the Marine Corps, was the subject of an investigation after complaints were filed last year that he had "maliciously burned two junior Marines," according to a 20-page report Military.com obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Frazier, who serves as the Marine Corps' most senior sergeant, representing the service at high-profile events across the country, was ultimately cleared of any hazing allegations after investigators found he hadn't intended to harm his Marines. But his uniform inspection tactic was found to have been done in poor judgment — a "leadership failure," documents state.
Military court upholds 10-year prison term for ex-Parris Island drill instructor who abused Muslim recruits
A military court denied the appeal of a former Parris Island drill instructor sentenced to 10 years in prison for abusing three Muslim recruits, including Raheel Siddiqui of Taylor, who died during boot camp in 2016.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals reviewed the 2017 court-martial of Gunnery Sgt. Joseph A. Felix Jr. and affirmed his conviction and sentence.
In a decision issued last week, the court called Felix a "bully" whose "misconduct impacted an entire generation of Marines."
"The appellant was placed in a position of trust, charged with turning young men into Marines. He was one of their first authority figures — their first example of what a Marine was supposed to be," Senior Judge and Capt. Frank D. Hutchison wrote for the court.
"Instead of providing a positive example and conducting meaningful training, he taught his recruits, by his example, that rule-breaking was commonplace and that violence against fellow Marines was not only acceptable, but required to instill discipline. Not only did he fail to correct or report his subordinates' bad behavior, he encouraged it and participated in worse and more pervasive behavior."
Several members of the Marine Corps' famous Silent Drill Platoon were kicked out of the service or punished by their command after someone reported witnessing them using a training rifle to strike someone.
Three Marines have been discharged in the last 60 days and two others lost a rank after the Naval Criminal Investigative Service began looking into hazing allegations inside the revered unit that performs at public events around the world.