The Marine Corps says the death of recruit Raheel Siddiqui was a suicide, and three command investigations at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island have revealed troubling behaviors and lapses there.
“Currently, twenty Recruit Training Regiment personnel have been identified for possible military justice or administrative action,” according to a statement from Marine Corps Headquarters released Thursday afternoon.
There are no official charges yet, according to a Marine Corps official speaking on background.
The findings of the investigations have been endorsed by Maj. Gen. James W. Lukeman, commanding general, Training and Education Command, but must be reviewed by the Corps’ legal affairs division before any charges are recommended. That process “could take months,” according to the official, who said the charges would then be submitted to Lukeman for his review and endorsement.
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One of the investigations was a “red dot” investigation, according to the official. That type is initiated by a letter of inquiry from the White House.
Another investigation dates back to 2015, when multiple drill instructors were accused of misconduct — including some who were accused of “racially motivated hazing,” the official said. One of those instructors was improperly assigned — he wasn’t supposed to be supervising recruits while he was under investigation — to Siddiqui’s training battalion. The Marine Corps official could not confirm or deny if that instructor had been previously alleged to have engaged in racially motivated hazing.
The third investigation was directly related to Siddiqui’s death, but it brought other concerns to light, the official said. Specifically, it found allegations of 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.
In the wake of his passing, two high-ranking officers and a sergeant major have been relieved of command.
And, in late June, the Corps announced the investigations into the conduct of 15 drill instructors and “affiliated leadership” at the depot.
“Commanders and senior enlisted advisors at the series, company, battalion and regimental level were relieved in the wake of Recruit Siddiqui's death and a number of drill instructors have been suspended,” the Corps statement said.
The investigations found:
- “Recurrent physical and verbal abuse of recruits by drill instructors, with a noted insufficiency of oversight and supervision at various command levels;
- Improper assignment of a drill instructor for duty while under investigation for previous allegations of assault and hazing;
- Maltreatment of new drill instructors by more experienced drill instructors;
- Gaps in awareness by commanders regarding their roles within the command investigation process; and,
- Anomalies and inconsistencies in the policies and procedures responding to suicidal ideations or statements.”
In response to those findings, Training and Education Command has taken the following actions:
- “Mandatory suspension of personnel who are being investigated for recruit abuse, hazing, or maltreatment;
- Additional visibility and reviews of investigations above the regimental level;
- Modification of the assignment process for drill instructors and officers;
- The cessation of any practice that is based on differentiating between drill instructors of differing experience levels (with the exception of the Senior Drill Instructor billet);
- Establish and enforce a zero-tolerance policy for ‘hat-hazing’ (hazing among drill instructors);
- Increased officer presence and supervision of training; and,
- Review and revise mental health processes, procedures, and suicide prevention protocols.”
“I fully support and endorse these initial actions,” said Gen. Robert Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps.
“When America’s men and women commit to becoming Marines, we make a promise to them. We pledge to train them with firmness, fairness, dignity and compassion. Simply stated, the manner in which we make Marines is as important as the finished product. Recruit training is, and will remain, physically and mentally challenging so that we can produce disciplined, ethical, basically-trained Marines," said Neller.
“We mourn the loss of Recruit Siddiqui,” Neller added, “and we will take every step necessary to prevent tragic events like this from happening again.”