QUANTICO, Va. – Marine Corps recruits say they were called names, forced to do calisthenics in a dusty building and made to help a drill instructor with his homework during boot camp at Parris Island.
The testimony came Thursday at a preliminary hearing for Staff Sgt. Antonio Burke, a former drill instructor who is accused of cruelty and mistreatment.
Burke is one of four Marines facing military judicial proceedings this week at Quantico Marine Corps Base following an investigation into possible hazing of recruits during boot camp.
The Marine Corps launched the probe after a recruit’s death in March. The Marines facing charges this week aren’t connected to his death.
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One Marine recruit testified that he passed out several times during training, though he said he also suffered from a heart condition.
Burke’s hearing is an Article 32, a required proceeding before a case can be tried by a general court-martial, according to Corps spokesperson Capt. Joshua Pena — and that type of court-martial is “the most serious level of military courts,” according the Corps.
The Article 32 hearing will provide Maj. Gen. James W. Lukeman, who heads the Corps Training and Education Command, with recommendations on how to proceed with Burke’s case. Recommendations could include:
▪ dismissal, alteration or addition of charges
▪ handling the case with a lower-level administrative action
▪ referring the case to a lower-level court-martial
▪ sending the case to a general court-martial — the highest-level court
Lukeman has the final say on whether the case goes before a general court-martial.
“The convening authority (Lukeman) has the final decision,” Pena told The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette last month. “He can choose to accept or reject the recommendations.”
In September, the Corps announced that up to 20 drill instructors and leadership personnel could face charges. The first of those charges — and the first accused Marines — were announced in December.
The Corps says none of the charges are related to the death of Raheel Siddiqui, a Muslim American recruit of Pakistani descent who died March 18 after falling three stories on Parris Island. The Corps has ruled his death a suicide. His parents and family attorney Shiraz Khan dispute that claim. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is still looking into the matter.
Siddiqui was reportedly hazed and abused during his 11 days at the depot. In the wake of his death, three Corps investigations into allegations of hazing and recruit abuse — specifically within 3rd Recruit Training Battalion — have been linked.
In addition to Thursday’s Article 32 hearing, three special courts-martial arraignments are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Friday.
Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Bacchus, Sgt. Riley R. Gress and Staff Sgt. Jose Lucena-Martinez are all accused of multiple violations of the UCMJ.
▪ Bacchus: Violation of a lawful general order; maltreatment; false official statement
▪ Gress: Failure to obey a lawful general order; cruelty and maltreatment; false official statement
▪ Lucena-Martinez: Failure to obey a lawful general order; false official statement
This week’s hearings will be open to the public and the media.