PARRIS ISLAND , S.C., Sept. 9 (UPI) — Twenty U.S. Marines could face punishment after a recruit’s suicide led to a probe revealing a pattern of mistreatment and abuse at the Parris Island, S.C., base, military officials said.
Two investigations began after Raheel Siddiqui, 20, fell 40 feet to his death in a stairwell at the training center. One other investigation into allegations of hazing incidents during Marine Corps Basic Training was in progress at the time of Siddiqui’s death.
The incident prompted debate over the way recruits are tested and trained, and whether Siddiqui’s Muslim faith had any impact in his treatment.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., who represents Siddiqui’s hometown of Taylor, Mich., has pressed the Marine Corps about the role hazing may have played in his death.
Marine Corps officials said Siddiqui arrived at Parris Island on March 7 and within a week expressed a desire to kill himself. He was interviewed by medical personnel and examined by a psychologist before he returned to training on March 18.
Four days later, complaining of a sore throat, he was summoned by his drill instructor and was forced to run up and down a squad bay, a residence for the recruits. After falling to the floor he was verbally ordered to stand up by a drill instructor, then slapped several times, a violation of the Marines’ recruit training order. Saddiqui then ran to one end of the squad bay, vaulted a railing and fell to his death.
Investigators called it a suicide but found a pattern of abuse and hazing in training and noted an “absence of oversight and supervision at various levels of command,” a Marine Corps official said.
While the recruit training procedure is legendary for its harshness, the investigation focused on only one of Parris Island’s four recruit battalions, the 3rd Recruit battalion. Twenty people within the unit could be punished for their participation in creating a toxic work environment which regularly ignored hazing and condoned poor leadership practices. Some could face more serious legal consequences, a military official told the Marine Corps Times.
A Marine Corps official said the investigation said Siddiqui’s company in particular had “inadequate supervision by leadership … which resulted in a permissive atmosphere for hazing and abuse to occur.”
Siddiqui’s death prompted firings and suspensions at the base, as well as an overhaul of procedures.
New measures incorporated in the training program include an increased officer presence and supervision of training; mandatory suspension of any Marine investigated for recruit abuse, hazing or maltreatment; better visibility and reviews of investigations above the regimental level; modification of the assignment processes for drill instructors and officers; a halt to of any practice based on differentiating between drill instructors of differing experience levels, and a review; and possible revision to mental health processes and procedures, including suicide prevention protocols.