Cpl. William Hester(PARRIS ISLAND, S.C.) — Fifteen drill instructors at the Marine boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, are under investigation for possible hazing and abuse as part of a broader review of the behavior of Marine Corps drill instructors, the Marine Corps announced Wednesday.
The review stems from an investigation into the apparent suicide of a Muslim recruit in March.
In a statement released Wednesday, the Marine Training and Education Command (TECOM) said allegations are being investigated against the 15 drill instructors and affiliated leadership to "identify potential violations of Marine Corps orders to include hazing, physical abuse, assault and failure of supervision."
The Command said the investigations date back to November 2015 and appear isolated to companies within the 3rd Recruit Training Battalion at Parris Island.
The Parris Island recruit depot is the facility that puts Marine recruits who live east of the Mississippi River through the intense rigors of its intense 13-week boot camp. The Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California, trains Marine recruits from states west of the Mississippi.
The investigation into the drill instructor climate at Parris Island is a result of the the initial investigation into the circumstances behind the apparent suicide of 20-year-old Raheel Siddiqui from Taylor, Michigan. He died March 18 after falling three stories from a stairwell in his barracks. Siddiqui had arrived at the Parris Island facility just days earlier.
In April, Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell asked the Marine Corps, on behalf of Siddiqui's family, to ascertain if his Muslim faith and Pakistani heritage may have resulted in hazing that contributed to his death.
"During the course of the Recruit Siddiqui death investigation, facts revealed a drill instructor was improperly placed in charge of recruits while he was subject to an ongoing investigation," said the Marine statement. "Existing orders, policies and procedures to prevent improper assignments were not followed. Interim corrective actions have already been taken."
The 15 drill instructors under investigation have been reassigned to duties that do not involve direct access to Marine recruits.
"We take every allegation of misconduct very seriously and will review each investigation carefully," said Major General James W. Lukeman, TECOM Commanding General.
"MCRD Parris Island and MCRD San Diego are Marine Corps institutions entrusted by the American people to transform the best of our nation's young men and women into U.S. Marines," he said. "Every day, approximately 1,000 drill instructors at our recruit depots are doing exactly what they were screened, selected and trained to do in a professional, appropriate manner. The safety of the recruits and the integrity of the Marine Corps recruit training program are among our top priorities and, once the investigations are complete, we will take necessary administrative and judicial action as warranted to ensure proper accountability."
The TECOM statement said once all the investigations at Parris Island are complete, Lukeman "will determine the appropriate administrative and judicial actions necessary based on the findings."
The initial investigation into Siddiqui's death has already resulted in the removal from command of the senior officer in charge of the 3rd Training Battalion.
Three weeks ago, Colonel Paul D. Cucinotta, the unit's commanding officer, was removed from his leadership position for what Lukeman called "a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to serve in that position." A Marine statement said Cucinotta's removal "was based on information made known to Lukeman during the course of an ongoing command investigation related to instances where policies and procedures were not followed."
Cucinotta's senior enlisted adviser Sergeant Major Nicholas Deabreu was also removed from his post.
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