The Marine Corps’ recruit hazing scandal is not limited to the Corps’ East Coast training depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.
At least two drill instructors at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego have been disciplined since 2014 for hazing recruits, according to redacted copies of the investigations, which Marine Corps Times obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
One drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego received nonjudicial punishment in 2014 after he ordered his recruits into the shower, where he had them crowd together while naked until they were standing, “nuts to butts,” as one recruit told investigators.
Another drill instructor accused of choking recruits was found guilty of violating a lawful order at a July 2016 summary court martial and reduced in rank to corporal, according to the investigation.
The Marine Corps is not releasing either of the drill instructors’ names, said Capt. Matthew Finnerty, a spokesman for the San Diego recruit depot. The drill instructor involved with the shower incidents is still on active-duty but no longer trains recruits; while the drill instructor accused of assaulting recruits has been administratively separated from the Corps.
Both the San Diego and Parris Island recruit depots have made a series of institutional changes to prevent hazing, including doubling the number of officers who supervise recruit training and adding more drill instructors, Finnerty said.
But the incidents show how hard it is for recruits to identify hazing at boot camp and report drill instructors who cross the line.
After an investigation into the shower incidents was launched in April 2014, several recruits told investigators they supported their drill instructor.
“His treatment did not affect me as it is boot camp and the yelling and craziness is something that comes with it,” one recruit wrote on a questionnaire from the Marine Corps’ Criminal Investigative Division.
Another recruit wrote that he was not sure if being ordered into the shower rose to the level of hazing because he was not entirely sure what hazing is.
“I thought we were just supposed to get used to seeing other naked men,” the recruit wrote on the questionnaire.
But other recruits wrote that being forced to crowd together that closely while naked was unacceptable and the drill instructor should not be given a second chance to train recruits.
“It’s against human rights; it’s something that you don’t do,” one recruit told a CID investigator.
With the other case, investigators found that a drill instructor assaulted six recruits between June and July of 2015. One of the recruits told a CID investigator that the drill instructor, a sergeant, grabbed his throat and picked him up so that he had to stand on his toes to breathe, according to the investigation.
The recruit had a fear of being choked before the incident, the investigation says. Afterward, he became paranoid, “unfocused” and “depressed,” but he initially kept quiet about it because he felt something bad would happen or no one would believe him.
“I wasn’t reporting it at the time because I was scared and wanted to keep it all in and continue training,” the recruit told a CID investigator. “I really didn’t want to go to the Crucible because I was afraid of what would happen there if I didn’t do well.”
Five days after the incident, the recruit told another drill instructor that he had been choked and he was later sent to the hospital for a mental evaluation, the investigation says.
His mother filed a report with the recruit depot’s provost marshal’s office after a Navy ensign in the hospital told her: “The incident had been investigated either at or above the command level and that it had been unfounded,” she told a CID investigator.