Approximately 15 drill instructors and “affiliated leadership” at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island are under investigation for allegedly hazing, assaulting and physically abusing recruits.
Those investigations follow the March 18 death of recruit Raheel Siddiqui and are related to the recent dismissal of two of the depot’s top recruit commanders.
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The probe of the drill instructors dates back to November, according to a Marine Corps news release. But some of the allegations, which include “hazing, physical abuse, assault and failure of supervision,” according to the release, stem from “the death investigation” of Siddiqui, who suffered a fatal 40-foot fall at the depot.
“During the course of the Recruit Siddiqui death investigation,” the Corps news release said, “facts revealed a drill instructor was improperly placed in charge of recruits while he was subject to an ongoing investigation. Existing orders, policies and procedures to prevent improper assignments were not followed,” it said.
“Interim corrective actions have already been taken. All Marines under investigation are currently assigned to duties that do not involve direct access to recruits,” it said.
When asked what “interim corrective actions” had been taken and what “direct access to recruits” means, Corps spokesperson Capt. Joshua Pena replied in an email, “The release provides the information available at this time.”
When asked to provide specific examples of hazing, physical abuse, assault and failure of supervision that are under investigation, Pena replied, “The release provides the information available at this time.”
And he replied with the same comment when asked about the scope of the investigation, who “affiliated leadership” is, and how Training and Education Command became aware of the allegations.
“There are approximately 15 drill instructors associated with the allegations in the investigations,” Pena said. “Numbers of affiliated leadership (are) unavailable at this time while the investigations are ongoing.”
The release said the investigations “appear isolated to companies with the 3rd Recruit Training Battalion,” which Siddiqui, a 20-year-old Taylor, Mich., native, was part of when he suffered his fatal fall.
There are more than 500 drill instructors on Parris Island, according to depot spokesperson Capt. Greg Carroll. More than 100 instructors are assigned to each male training battalion in the regiment, he said.
The attorney for the Siddiqui family said the recent dismissals and investigations reinforce the family’s suspicion that they don’t know how, exactly, their child died.
Col. Paul D. Cucinotta, former commander of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island’s Recruit Training Regiment, was relieved of command on June 6. Regiment Sgt. Maj. Nicholas A. Deabreu was relieved that same day.
Those dismissals, according to Pena, “were a result of information made available” to Maj. Gen. James W. Lukeman, who oversees Training and Education Command, “from the current ongoing investigations” that include the depot’s drill instructors.
U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., who first wrote to Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller on April 4 inquiring about hazing at the depot, sent him another letter Thursday asking, among other things, whether any of the drill instructors under investigation had any contact with Siddiqui.
When asked by The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette whether the drill instructor who “was improperly placed in charge of recruits while he was subject to an ongoing investigation” had supervised Siddiqui, and when asked what type of relationship that instructor had, if any, with Siddiqui, Pena replied, “The release provides the information available at this time.”
Siddiqui family attorney Nabih Ayad, who said he spoke with Dingell on Thursday morning, said the family is still at a loss for what happened to their son.
“They absolutely feel they still don’t know happened,” Ayad said during a phone interview on Thursday. “They’re happy to see some action that’s been taken by the military, but at the end of the day, they still need to know what happened to their son.”
“Let’s backtrack a little bit,” Ayad said. “We were always a little bit suspicious about what transpired in this recruit’s death. When (Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon) was relieved, that backed up our position. When (Cucinotta and Deabreau) were relieved, that affirmed our position. ... A valedictorian ... who’s very excited to complete his training just doesn’t go out and kill himself.”
Kissoon, who commanded 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, was relieved March 31 as part of an Inspector General of the Marine Corps investigation that Parris Island officials say was not related to Siddiqui’s death.
Regarding the timeline for completing the investigations into the depot’s drill instructors, Pena replied, “That is undetermined at this time.”