US marine instructor accused of running a clothes dryer with a Muslim recruit inside
A Muslim US marine said he was called a terrorist and ordered into an industrial clothes dryer multiple times by a drill instructor who then turned it on, burning him, according to investigative documents that describe the abuse of recruits at the service’s training centre at Parris Island, South Carolina.
“You’re going to kill us all the first chance you get aren’t you, terrorist?” the drill instructor thundered at the recruit, the new marine later alleged, according to the documents that have not been released publicly but were reviewed by The Washington Post. “What are your plans? Aren’t you a terrorist?”
The issue of hazing and abuse at Parris Island surfaced March 18, when a different 20-year-old recruit with Pakistani roots - Raheel Siddiqui of Taylor, Michigan – died after leaping from a stairwell landing that was nearly 13 metres high while running away from the same drill instructor who used the dryer. The instructor had just slapped Siddiqui before he jumped. Siddiqui’s death drew public scrutiny to a culture of harsh punishments at Parris Island – one that marine officials were already examining, the documents show.
Last week, service officials announced that 20 members of Parris Island’s staff could face criminal charges or administrative discipline following the conclusion of three investigations into various abuse allegations. But the documents and an interview with a marine official with knowledge of the investigations suggest dozens more Parris Island marines could be implicated in the scandal.
Marine Commandant General Robert Neller, addressing the abuse allegations last week, said in a statement that recruit training will remain physically and mentally challenging, but that the manner in which marines are made is as important as the final product.
“When America’s men and women commit to becoming marines, we make a promise to them,” he said. “We pledge to train them with firmness, fairness, dignity and compassion.”
Some details of the abuse have previously been reported, but the investigative documents describe an environment in which one unit in particular – 3rd Recruit Training Battalion – had drill instructors who not only tested recruits’ mettle, as is expected, but abused them physically and emotionally.
Ethnic and gay slurs were also used regularly, and drill instructors ordered repeated, unauthorised physical training that sometimes injured recruits. The drill instructors also sometimes were drunk on the job, bringing Fireball whiskey into work on at least one occasion, recruits told investigators.
In one case, a senior drill instructor who had seen a photograph of a recruit’s sister made him log into his Facebook account so he could request that she call Parris Island on the telephone. When she did, the drill instructor took the phone away from the recruit, introduced himself and said that he had heard she was single and wanted to know whether they could get to know each other. The drill instructor later denied it, but the sister corroborated the recruit’s story with copies of the Facebook messages, according to the documents.
The drill instructor involved in the dryer case, an unidentified sergeant, was allowed to continue training recruits after allegations of abuse were made, in part because marine officials did not take the accusations seriously, one investigation found.
The alleged incident occurred in 2015, and was reported last November by the targeted marine and two enlisted colleagues who by then had moved on to initial aviation training in Pensacola, Florida. The new marine said he was also accused of participating in the September 11, 2001, attacks.
The former recruit said he was kept in the dryer long enough that his neck and arm started to burn and he began to cry, according to the documents.
Recruits who were abused were also warned that “snitches get stitches”.
Drill instructors are directed specifically to not discriminate against recruits on the basis of race or religion, and anyone who saw such discrimination should have stood up against it, a retired senior enlisted marine said.
“Even back in the day when they were really brutal at Parris Island, I can’t imagine that happening. That’s abuse,” the marine said when informed of the dryer incident. “It’s beyond me. We are entrusted to take care of those recruits and train them. There was clearly a breakdown in leadership at Parris Island.”
The officer’s name is redacted, but marine officials identified him as Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Kissoon, who was removed from his job in March. The documents describe him as a “toxic leader” whose “derisive attitude toward his company grade officers, and perceived self-interest caused his officers to lose confidence in his leadership.”