Former USMC Drill Instructor Pleads Guilty to Hazing, Will Be Separated

Sgt. Michael Eldridge, a drill instructor for Platoon 3070, Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, steps into place for the initial drill evaluation July 15, 2013, on Parris Island, S.C. (Photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink)
Sgt. Michael Eldridge, a drill instructor for Platoon 3070, Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, steps into place for the initial drill evaluation July 15, 2013, on Parris Island, S.C. (Photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink)

A former Marine Corps drill instructor implicated in a 2015 incident in which a Muslim recruit was thrown in an industrial dryer and interrogated like a terrorist will serve 45 days' restriction and be administratively separated from the military, Marine officials announced Friday.

Sgt. Michael K. Eldridge pleaded guilty at a summary court-martial aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, to maltreatment; failure to obey a lawful general order; and disorderly conduct, officials with Marine Corps Training and Education Command said Friday. In addition to restriction, he will be demoted to corporal, according to the announcement.

Eldridge is the last of a parade of former Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, drill instructors to face administrative or legal action following a series of hazing allegations that became public following the March 2016 suicide death of 20-year-old recruit Raheel Siddiqui.

The most serious punishment was handed down in November to Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, who was found guilty of slapping and berating Siddiqui immediately before his death and, on a previous occasion, of throwing another Muslim recruit, Ameer Bourmeche, into a dryer and turning it on during a drunken night-time hazing session.

Felix was sentenced to 10 years' confinement and a dishonorable discharge on Nov. 10.

Felix's military defense attorney argued, however, that Eldridge had been the instigator in the Bourmeche incident. As part of a pretrial agreement in which he agreed to testify against Felix, Eldridge was granted an administrative court proceeding and a limited maximum sentence.

"Sgt. Eldridge took the government for a ride," Navy Lt. Cmdr. Clay Bridges told a military jury during Felix's general court-martial.

Eldridge is the sixth and final former drill instructor to go to trial on allegations of hazing in relation to various incidents within Parris Island's 3rd Recruit Training Battalion.

One additional court-martial is expected to take place this spring.

Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon, the former commanding officer of 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, is scheduled to face general court-martial March 12 at Quantico, accused of failing to remove Felix from training recruits after the Bourmeche hazing accusations came to light.

Felix would be removed from his post permanently only after Siddiqui's death.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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