Tyler Broome has been keeping up with the news, and he’s not worried.
Broome, 20, of New Bern, N.C., started reading the Marine Corps Times and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island’s Facebook page when he enlisted in May.
He’s followed the story of Kristian Gashaj, the Marine recruit who remains in critical condition after falling two stories inside the depot’s recruit processing center on Oct. 28.
He’s aware, though less informed about, the more recent death of recruit Zachary Boland, found unconscious in his rack on Nov. 4.
“As one guy in our pool group said, the Marine Corps was fine for years on end,” Broome said during a Nov. 20 phone interview. Broome is a “poolee” in the Corps’ delayed entry program, and will be reporting to Parris Island for recruit training in early January.
“And all of a sudden these (incidents) come up and we’re not really sure what’s going on. ... We’re really not too concerned because a lot of us feel like they’re isolated incidents.”
Broome, who hopes to be a military policeman and, potentially, make a career out of his service, will begin his training at a pivotal time for the Corps and Parris Island.
In an op-ed piece for the San Diego Union-Tribune, retired lieutenant colonel Kate Germano, who oversaw training for women recruits at the depot, called Siddiqui’s death — and findings of hazing and recruit abuse stemming from three investigations related to it — “the biggest recruit training scandal since the drowning of six recruits in 1956,” when a drunken drill instructor took a platoon on a punitive nighttime march into Ribbon Creek.
Up to 20 Parris Island Marines, many of them drill instructors, could face administrative actions or military justice in connection with the investigations linked to Siddiqui’s death. The Corps has deemed that death a suicide, a finding his family disputes.
And while the Naval Criminal Investigative Service suspects no foul play in either Gashaj’s injury or Boland’s death, that agency and the Corps continue to investigate the incidents.
Despite the deaths and injury, the Corps says its recruitment and enlistment efforts have not been affected.
“We are aware of no appreciable effects on the recruitment/enlistment process,” Marine Corps Recruiting Command Spokesperson Jim Edwards wrote Monday in an email to The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette when asked how the incidents and associated news coverage had affected the unit’s mission.
In response to the incidents on Parris Island, Edwards said recruiters have been encouraged to “reassure parents, poolees, prospects, educators, and key influencers that the men and women going through recruit training will be treated respectfully and that hazing and discrimination will not be tolerated.”
Other than that, there have been no changes to recruiting and enlistment practices, he said.
Negative press is “one of many challenges Marine recruiters must overcome,” he said. Three-fourths of “age-qualified youth are unqualified for service due to medical, moral or educational issues that are not waiverable, and approximately 90 percent of America’s youth are disinterested in military service,” he said.
“Despite these challenges, our Marine recruiters continue to successfully meet assigned recruiting missions,” Edwards said.
Broome said his recruiters in New Bern and Jacksonville, N.C., talked with him on two occasions following Gashaj’s injury. The recruiters wanted to make sure he had factual information, he said, and wanted to see how he and his fellow poolees were feeling.
“(The recruiters) wanted to make sure we knew there was an investigation going on,” Broome said, adding that the recruiters invited poolees to come forward if they had any concerns. “I can’t speak (to) if someone had concerns in their mind and didn’t say anything, but no one said, out loud, anything.”
Broome said he’s prepared himself physically and mentally for the rigors of recruit training, and that’s he’s ready to go. He’s had no second thoughts about his decision to enlist — he said he’s not concerned about his health and safety.
He’s talked to former poolees who’ve come back to New Bern after finishing training, he said, and they had a “smooth” experience, and “no trouble with their (drill instructors).”
As for the Corps’ reputation in light of the recruit deaths, injuries and subsequent investigations, Broome said he’s waiting for the investigations to finish before forming an opinion.
“I’m not going off of what’s going on at boot camp, because that’s three months, and once you’re done there, you never go back, basically,” Broome said.
“My feeling is more toward the Marine Corps itself and going into what’s called the fleet, which is active duty. ... I’m looking more forward to that.”
Broome’s advice to prospective recruits: let the investigations unfold before judging the Corps.
And, if you’ve made up your mind to enlist, make sure you’re prepared.