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Timeline: USMC investigation findings, changes of command on Parris Island

The entrance to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on March 21, 2016.
The entrance to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on March 21, 2016. HiltonHead

Since the death of Marine recruit Raheel Siddiqui in March, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island has been scrutinized for physical assaults between recruits, officer dismissals and ongoing investigations that have garnered national attention.

In particular, three command investigations the Corps has linked to Siddiqui’s death have revealed a culture permissive of hazing and recruit abuse.

Currently, 20 Marines at the depot at multiple levels of command could face military justice or administrative action.

Here’s a chronological look at the key incidents at the depot during the past two years. We will continue to update this timeline.

Summer 2015: Drill instructor interrogates Muslim recruit about loyalties

A drill instructor on Parris Island is alleged to have ordered a Muslim recruit into a commercial clothes dryer and to have interrogated him about his religion and loyalties.

On the night in question, the recruit is taken to the laundry room — after being forced to exercise in the shower — and ordered to get into the dryer to dry off. The recruit is asked who he is working for, if he had a part in 9/11 and what his religion is.

He is put in the dryer and it is turned on multiple times. The recruit alleges to have suffered burns on his neck and shoulders, according to Marine Corps officials.

On Nov. 6, 2015 — three days after three former members of Platoon 3054, Company L, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, report the incident — the Corps begins its investigation. (In total, 15 drill instructors in 3rd Recruit Training Battalion are investigated — this command investigation is later linked to two others following Siddiqui’s death.)

This same drill instructor later allegedly hazes and slaps Siddiqui in the face moments before he jumps from the third floor of his barracks.

Later, a command investigation linked to the recruit’s death determines the instructor was improperly assigned to Siddiqui’s battalion — that he should not have been supervising recruits because he was under investigation for recruit abuse and mistreatment.

March 7: Recruit Raheel Siddiqui arrives; soon threatens suicide, Corps says

Siddiqui, a 20-year-old Muslim-American of Pakistani descent from Taylor, Mich., arrives on Parris Island to begin a 13-week training regimen to become a U.S. Marine.

He is assigned to Company K, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion.

Guidance counselors at his alma mater, Harry S. Truman High School, had been surprised to learn Siddiqui wanted to join the military. He was a “gentle soul,” in one counselor’s words, and he’d been attending the University of Michigan-Dearborn on a scholarship.

Corps officials say Siddiqui threatens suicide on March 13, but recants that threat later the same day. When asked how he will kill himself, he tells someone at the depot he will jump out of the squad bay window and, if necessary, cut out the screen window before doing so.

He is examined by a psychologist on March 14, but first meets with the Recruiter Liaison Service — a unit tasked with determining if recruits or recruiters provided false information that would have led to a fraudulent enlistment, and for motivating recruits who are experiencing difficulties to resume training.

The psychologist deems him fit to return to training, and determines he is a “low risk” of harming himself.

March 17: Top recruit commander decides to dismiss Siddiqui’s battalion commander

Col. Paul D. Cucinotta, commander of the Recruit Training Regiment, decides to relieve Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon, commander of 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, after receiving the results of an Inspector General of the Marine Corps investigation.

That decision is made public two weeks later.

Parris Island received official notification of the Kissoon investigation’s results on Feb. 23, according to a Corps spokesperson.

Cucinotta was provided with the results of the investigation on Feb. 29.

March 18: Siddiqui dies during training

Siddiqui, assigned to a platoon in Kissoon’s battalion, suffers a fatal, 40-foot fall at the depot.

Shortly thereafter, his parents tell a Michigan TV station they received information from the Marine Corps that said their son jumped to his death. Their attorney at the time, Nabih Ayad, says the family continues to doubt their son committed suicide.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service asks Siddiqui’s family members and a former employer about his mental health history. NCIS says its investigation could take a year or longer, and that foul play is not suspected.

Later, U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) writes to Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller on two occasions expressing concerns about hazing at the depot.

March 27: Recruit Morgan Brown assaulted in sick bay; assailant dismissed

Brown’s father, Bryan Brown, tells The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette his son, who was in a wheelchair at the time, was assaulted in sickbay by a fellow recruit.

He says the Easter Sunday attack knocked his son unconscious and left him with three facial fractures.

Parris Island officials confirm the attack and that the assailant was involved in “multiple disciplinary infractions” — including another attack on a fellow recruit.

In a letter to his parents dated April 26, Morgan Brown tells of an incident where his assailant “slammed” another recruit’s “head into a column.”

“The kid came back from medical with four staples in the back of his head,” Brown writes, “and it p----- me off that it had to get that bad before they removed him.”

March 31: Depot announces dismissal of Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon

Parris Island announces Kissoon’s relief of command.

The decision to relieve Kissoon is made before Siddiqui’s death, Parris Island officials say, and Marine Corps Training and Education Command says the investigation that resulted in the dismissal is not related to Siddiqui’s death.

Months later, a “red dot” inquiry would reinforce findings of other investigations that a “permissive atmosphere for hazing and abuse” developed under Kissoon’s leadership of 3rd Recruit Training Battalion.

May 2: USMC begins White-House-prompted “red dot” investigation

An anonymous letter to the White House dated April 27 prompts the Corps’ investigation.

That letter alleges recruit abuse and mistreatment in a specific platoon of Company K, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion.

Specifically, the “red dot” inquiry validates the findings surrounding the “permissive atmosphere for hazing and abuse” that developed under Kissoon’s leadership of 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, corps officials say in September.

May 12: Depot announces Brig. Gen. Terry V. Williams will leave depot

Parris Island announces Williams, the first African-American commander of the depot, will relinquish command in early June to move to another posting.

Depot officials and Training and Education Command say Williams’ departure is not related to Siddiqui’s death.

Williams commanded Parris Island beginning June 2014 and presided over the depot’s 100th anniversary.

June 7: Depot announces dismissal of Col. Paul D. Cucinotta and Sgt. Maj. Nicholas A. Deabreu

Cucinotta, commander of the depot’s Recruit Training Regiment — the top recruit commander on Parris Island — and his sergeant major, Deabreu, are relieved of command on June 6.

A Marine Corps spokesperson says a “command investigation ... initiated following the death of recruit (Raheel) Siddiqui” led to the dismissals. This is the first time the Corps linked the recruit’s death to an investigation that resulted in disciplinary actions.

Cucinotta remains at Parris Island and attends the June 10 change of command ceremony. During his remarks, outgoing depot commander Williams thanks Cucinotta for doing “a lot for the RTR” and calls him a “professional and a real honorable man.”

June 10: Brig. Gen Austin E. Renforth assumes command of the depot

Renforth takes command vowing to bring “enthusiasm” to Parris Island.

He pledges the depot, under his command, will “follow the rules” and “do things right.”

Renforth says his father graduated from recruit training on Parris Island in 1942.

June 29: Corps announces investigations of 15 drill instructors for hazing, physical abuse

Training and Education Command announces 15 drill instructors and “affiliated leadership” on Parris Island are under investigation for allegedly hazing, assaulting and physically abusing recruits.

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 investigation into Siddiqui’s death.

“During the course of the Recruit Siddiqui death investigation,” the Corps news release says, “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.”

“Interim corrective actions have already been taken,” the release continues. “All Marines under investigation are currently assigned to duties that do not involve direct access to recruits.”

The investigations “appear isolated to companies with the 3rd Recruit Training Battalion” — Siddiqui’s former battalion — the release says.

Sept. 8: Corps announces findings of three command investigations, says Siddiqui’s death a suicide

Of the three investigations linked to Siddiqui’s death, the first began in 2015 and involved multiples drill instructors accused of misconduct — including “racially motivated hazing,” officials said. That investigation was linked to Siddiqui’s death because one of the drill instructors under scrutiny was improperly assigned to Siddiqui’s training battalion.

The investigation into Siddiqui’s death found drill instructors under the influence of alcohol while on duty; a “lack of clarity” in the process and procedures for reporting recruit abuse; and inconsistencies in how a recruit’s suicidal ideations were addressed. That investigation did not find “gaps” in the policies and procedures related to reporting and addressing suicidal ideations, but it did find that leadership failed to follow them.

A “red dot” investigation, triggered by an anonymous letter to the White House dated April 27, prompted the Corps to look further at 3rd Recruit Training Battalion. That letter alleged recruit abuse and mistreatment in a specific platoon of Company K, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion. Siddiqui belonged to that company and battalion, but he was in a different platoon. The abuse and mistreatment alleged in the letter did not pertain to him.

In all, 20 personnel on Parris Island could face military justice or administrative action, officials say.

The Corps rules Siddiqui’s death a suicide, but NCIS continues to investigate the matter.

Current family attorney Shiraz Kahn says he and the family “believe that there is a lack of material evidence needed to support ‘suicide’ as the most probable cause of death in this case.”

Wade Livingston: 843-706-8153, @WadeGLivingston

 

Oct. 25, 2015 A special report on the past and present of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on its 100th anniversary | READ


 

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