The Marine Corps is investigating allegations of hazing, physical abuse, assault, and oversight failures among 15 drill instructors based at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, officials said.
News of this sweeping new probe comes on the heels of the March 18 death of Raheel Siddiqui, a 20-year-old Muslim-American recruit who had been at boot camp just 11 days when he died from a reported fall from the fourth floor of a barracks building.
All drill instructors under investigation are attached to 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, to which Siddiqui was assigned, Capt. Joshua Pena, a spokesman for Marine Corps Training and Education Command, said in a statement. The investigation was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
"During the course of the Recruit Siddiqui death investigation, facts revealed a drill instructor was improperly placed in charge of recruits while he was subject to an ongoing investigation," Pena said in the statement. "Existing orders, policies and procedures to prevent improper assignments were not followed. Interim corrective actions have already been taken."
The Siddiqui family has retained a lawyer, who has said publicly that he fears the recruit's Muslim faith may have subjected him to inappropriate treatment. Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Democratic Congresswoman from Siddiqui's home state of Michigan, has also queried the Marine Corps on whether hazing played a role in his death.
The allegations of recruit mistreatment by drill instructors date back to November 2015, according to the statement. They may provide context for what has been a year of tumult for the Marines' East Coast boot camp.
On March 31, Parris Island officials announced that Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon, commander of 3rd Recruit Training Battalion had been relieved in the wake of a Marine Corps Inspector General investigation. That investigation has not been made public. Then, on June 6, officials announced that Col. Paul Cucinotta, commanding officer of Recruit Training Regiment, which oversees the four Parris Island recruit training battalions, had also been fired. Unlike Kissoon's relief, Cucinotta's was directly connected to Siddiqui's death, an official confirmed.
It would later emerge that the senior enlisted leader of Recruit Training Regiment, Sgt. Maj. Nicholas Dabreau, had also been relieved.
As key leaders were removed, the Marine Corps also quietly sidelined a number of drill instructors as it launched a review of policies and procedures.
"Personnel were removed from their assigned duties of training recruits while ongoing investigations are underway," Parris Island spokesman Capt. Gregory Carroll told Military.com in a June 13 statement. "As the investigation continues, if warranted, additional actions may be taken."
The drill instructors under investigation will stay removed from the job of training recruits while the investigation continues, Pena said. He said they were all currently assigned to duties that did not involve direct access to recruits.
Pena told Military.com it was not clear when the investigation would be completed. The commander of TECOM, Maj. Gen. James Lukeman, will make final decisions about how to act on the investigation once completed. The Marine Corps has not ruled out criminal proceedings at this point.
In a statement, Lukeman said the Marine Corps oversaw about 1,000 drill instructors, and said the integrity of the Marine Corps recruit training program was a top priority.
"We take every allegation of misconduct very seriously and will review each investigation carefully," he said.