Everyone knows Marine training is tough, but new investigative documents reveal that, at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina, the tough training has crossed over into abuse.
As a result of the investigations, 20 staff members at Parris Island could be punished or separated from the Marine Corps for "participating in or enabling mistreatment of recruits," according to Military.com. Some of the drill instructors involved in the alleged abuse are likely to face court-martial.
For example, one Muslim Marine was forced to go into an industrial clothes dryer, which the drill instructor then turned on multiple times, until the marine was left in tears and with burns, according to The Washington Post. The investigations show, according to ABC News, the recruit alleged that the instructors had been drinking, and other recruits had seen one of them carrying a bottle of Fireball whiskey.
That same Marine was often called a terrorist during training, and accused of participating in the 9/11 attacks. The drill instructor yelled at him, "You’re going to kill us all the first chance you get aren’t you, terrorist?" He was also forced to yell "Allah Akbar" loud enough to wake up other recruits, according to Military.com. The instructor responsible for the alleged abuse seems to have had a history of Islamophobia, and had told the Muslim Marine that "over the past 14 years since 9/11 [the instructor] has been fighting people exactly like [the Marine], Muslims," according to the report.
Despite being investigated for forcing the Marine into the clothes dryer, that same drill instructor was later in charge of 20-year-old recruit Raheel Siddiqui, whose suicide in March exposed how pervasive hazing and abuse are at Parris Island. Shortly before the Muslim Marine jumped nearly 40 feet to his death, the drill instructor had slapped Siddiqui, which, the investigation found, "provided impetus for suicide."
The drill instructor had also repeatedly referred to Siddiqui as a "terrorist," and another drill instructor asked him if he needed a turban (despite the fact that turbans are more commonly associated with Sikhs, not Muslims).
On the morning of his death, the Pakistani-American from Taylor, Michigan tried to get medical treatment. However, the drill instructor said that Siddiqui didn't follow proper procedure and was made to run back and forth in his barracks. "I don't care what's wrong with you," the drill instructor allegedly yelled at Siddiqui. After being forced to do running drills, Siddiqui fell to the floor and appeared unresponsive. Then, according to The Beaufort Gazette, Siddiqui was ordered to his feet, before being "forcefully" slapped between one and three times by the drill instructor—hard enough for the sound to echo through the squad bay, according to Military.com. Siddiqui then reportedly rose to his feet and sprinted out of the room before jumping over a third-floor stairwell railing.
But the investigations of that drill instructor and others at the base began long before Siddiqui's death.
While officials have claimed that the incidents of abuse don't indicate a wider culture of abuse within the Marine boot camps, the documents seem to suggest otherwise. The investigation revealed "recurrent physical and verbal abuse of recruits by drill instructors," according to Fox News. Furthermore, a more experienced drill instructor had told newer instructors that they needed to "hate" recruits in order to train them successfully. In fact, even the newer instructors had to deal with abuse from more senior drill instructors.
In June, while multiple incidents were being investigated, Col. Paul D. Cucinotta, the second-highest ranking officer at Parris Island, and its senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. Nicholas Dabreau, were removed from their jobs due to a "loss of trust and confidence in his ability to serve in that position," The Washington Post reported. Before that, because of another investigation into a culture of abuse, Cucinotta had relieved Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon, whom the documents describe as a "toxic leader."
And it's not just Muslims who were targeted. Drill instructors reportedly used ethnic and homophobic slurs. One Russian-born recruit was referred to as a "cosmonaut" and questioned about whether he was a communist spy. In another incident reported by The Washington Post, a senior drill instructor made a recruit message his sister on Facebook and have her call the base. When she called, the instructor took the phone and start hitting on the recruit's sister. While he denied the incident, the investigation confirmed the story when the recruit's sister provided copies of the Facbeook messages.
Abused recruits were allegedly bribed with food to keep quiet and were warned that "snitches get stitches."
The investigative documents are expected to be released publicly soon. This fall, the involved Marines will likely move forward with criminal proceedings.