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Investigations into alleged hazing and maltreatment of recruits have found evidence of a toxic command climate at the Marines' training center at Parris Island, S.C., going back more than two years, according to Marine documents reviewed Wednesday by NBC News.
Detailed results of the investigations — one of them reviewing the alleged suicide of a new recruit in March — have been forwarded to prosecutors for "drafting of charges as warranted," according to one of the documents.
The Marine Corps said last week that the inquiries focus on three platoons of the Third Recruit Training Battalion. It said 20 training personnel had been "identified for possible military justice or administrative action," confirming a report by NBC News that the personnel — a mix of drill instructors and officers — were directly involved in hazing or had ignored evidence that it was going on.
One of the investigations was launched in 2015, after several recruits completed boot camp and came forward to superiors to complain.
The second began after Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., wrote a letter questioning whether hazing contributed to the death of Raheel Siddiqui, 20, a Muslim recruit from Taylor, Mich., who died after he fell three stories from a barracks stairwell on March 18 — just 11 days after he arrived at Parris Island.
The Marines ruled his death a suicide.
The third inquiry began May 2 after the White House received an anonymous letter claiming widespread abuse in the Third Recruit Training Battalion. That inquiry found unacceptable command conditions since as far back as June 2014, saying drill instructors called recruits by a variety of obscene and homophobic names, according to the investigative documents reviewed by NBC News.
In a letter to Dingell, the Marine Corps acknowledged that at least six of the drill instructors under investigation "had contact with Recruit Siddiqui" and disclosed that a drill instructor in Siddiqui's platoon was "improperly assigned" to the position even though he was still under investigation of allegations involving an unspecified earlier incident.
Dingell said Wednesday that she and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., an Army veteran and former chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, visited Parris Island over the weekend and met with Brig. Gen. Austin Renforth, the training center's new commanding officer.
"It is clear that the Marine Corps is treating this issue with the seriousness it deserves," Dingell said in a statement. But "this is just a first step, and continued monitoring in the weeks and months ahead will be necessary," she said.
Before its letter to Dingell, the Marine Corps had acknowledged the scope of the allegations against Parris Island personnel only in general, saying they included "recurrent physical and verbal abuse," insufficient supervision at various command levels and "anomalies and inconsistencies" in procedures to respond to recruits who may be considering suicide.
More specifics can be found in the investigative documents reviewed by NBC News. They include allegations that:
- A drill instructor ordered a recruit to get inside a clothes dryer and yelled questions at him, including demands to reveal his religion and whether he was a terrorist. When the instructor found the recruit's answers unsatisfactory, he turned the dryer on to burn the recruit. According to the documents, a Marine official described the incident as clear verbal abuse.
- The same recruit was forced to crawl between the beds in a barracks, pretend he was exploding and yell, "Allahu Akhbar," which is Arabic for "God is great."
- Recruits were denied food and hygiene.
- A recruit who passed out was denied medical attention.
- A drill instructor forced a recruit to do his college homework and exams for American Public University, a for-profit online institution based in Charles Town, W.Va., with a large military enrollment.
- A recruit from Britain was called a terrorist and offered $2,000 to run around the parade deck naked while being videotaped.
- At least one superior officer consumed alcohol and was intoxicated in front of recruits.
The Siddiqui family was informed of the preliminary findings last week, their lawyers said in a statement, which added they were "reviewing the findings and will determine their next course of action."
"There are too many questions that remain unanswered," according to the statement.