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Marines Testify About Boot Camp Abuse
Associated Press | November 08, 2007SAN DIEGO - Several Marines testified Nov. 7 that their boot camp drill instructor smacked them in the head with flashlights and rifles and ordered platoon members to lie in their own vomit.
In quiet voices, they each named Sgt. Jerrod M. Glass as the source of abuse they suffered last winter as fresh recruits at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot near downtown San Diego. Glass, 25, has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of abuse and violating lawful orders.
Lance Cpl. Sean Fitzgerald recounted for jurors how platoon members began trying to break open one recruit's foot locker after Glass began hitting the trainee over the head with a tent pole for forgetting the code for the combination lock.
"He said, 'I'm going to make you ugly if you can't open that locker,'" Fitzgerald said.
Defense attorneys said Glass' behavior was in line with practices accepted by other drill instructors and with the expectations of new recruits. In a side hearing, the judge overseeing the case said a failure to report abuse didn't qualify as consent to mistreatment.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Meeks brought up the drill instructor's creed, which begins, "These recruits are entrusted to my care."
He asked, "Does it say, 'You guys are under our power and we're going to beat the living daylights out of you?'"
"No, sir," replied Glass' lawyer, Capt. Patrick J. Callahan, as Glass looked on impassively.
Callahan said he hoped to show that Glass, who volunteered for two tours in Iraq, believed he was acting with the approval of his fellow drill instructors after they agreed the platoon needed to be better prepared to withstand the rigors of war.
Two of them have pleaded not guilty to related abuse charges and have indicated they will refuse to testify in Glass' court-martial. A fourth drill instructor was disciplined and reassigned to administrative duties.
Glass is being tried on two counts of assault, two counts of failure to obey a lawful order, two counts of cruelty and maltreatment, and four counts of destruction of personal property, covering 110 incidents that allegedly occurred between Dec. 23 and Feb. 10.
Witnesses said Glass routinely stomped on recruits' toiletry kits, breaking razors and soap containers inside, for minor infractions like not displaying name tags properly.
They said Glass and another drill instructor would line recruits up after meals and force them to down liters of water from their canteens in a ritual they referred to as "waterbowling."
Glass, who was relieved of duty as a drill instructor in February, faces as many as 11 years' confinement, dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank, and forfeiture of pay and benefits if he is found guilty. The jury is made up of three enlisted Marines and three officers.
Glass' parents said outside the courtroom that they believed their son was being scapegoated for commonly accepted practices.
"For it to have a name, for everyone to know it, means it's not the only time it's happened," said Glass' father, Jerry.
More than 70 witnesses, including almost all of the 40 Marines to graduate from Glass' platoon, are expected to be called to testify.
About 17,000 recruits graduate each year from the depot. It is one of only two depots nationwide; the other is in Parris Island, S.C.
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