COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Marine Corps says a recruit committed suicide in March amid a widespread culture of hazing and abuse in his battalion at Parris Island.
The investigation could lead to punishments for as many as 20 officers and enlisted leaders. Twenty-year-old Raheel Siddiqui of Taylor, Michigan, died after falling nearly 40 feet in a stairwell at the training site.
In a statement released Thursday to the Associated Press, the Marine Corps said it has ordered those leaders relieved, if they haven't already been removed from their positions. The service said the 20 have been identified for potential administrative or judicial punishment, which could include courts-martial for some.
The findings are the result of three investigations conducted by Maj. Gen. James Lukeman from the service's training and education command in Quantico, Virginia.
The Marine Corps' investigations findings include:
- 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
- Anomalies and inconsistencies in the policies and procedures responding to suicidal ideations or statements.
U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell called the Marine Corps' announcement a "first step." Dingell's office said the congresswoman met with Marine Corps Commandant General Robert B. Neller in her office on Thursday to inform her that upon completion of the investigation, twenty Recruit Training Regiment personnel have been identified for possible military justice or administrative action. Dingell's office said the investigations revealed deviations from established policies and procedures for Marine Corps recruit training.
Here is the full statement from Dingell:
“Today’s announcement by the Marine Corps is a first step in ensuring the family of Private Raheel Siddiqui receives the answers they deserve and that the Marine Corps is addressing the serious issues that led to this tragedy. I am grateful for the seriousness with which the Marine Corps has carried out this investigation to date, but it is critical that the process continue to be conducted in a manner that is thorough and ensures all those who are responsible are held accountable.
Private Siddiqui was a son, brother and class valedictorian who believed this country represented freedom and opportunity. As a young Muslim man, he truly understood the value of freedom of religion, and all he wanted was to defend the ideals our nation holds dear. This weekend, I will visit Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island to see firsthand the recruit training process, meet with the new leadership and learn about the changes that are being implemented to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again.
This is the very least the Siddiqui family – and the thousands of families across our country whose children serve in uniform – deserve.”