Over the weekend, U.S. Representatives Debbie Dingell (MI-12) and Darrell Issa (CA-49) traveled to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island to meet with Marine Corps officials regarding the implementation of changes to recruit training safeguards following the recent completion of three command-level investigations into the death of Raheel Siddiqui of Taylor, MI — a constituent of Congresswoman Dingell’s — and other allegations of mistreatment at Parris Island.
Siddiqui was a 20-year-old Marine Recruit who died during training camp following recurrent physical and verbal abuse by instructors. (More information here)
Dingell and Issa met with the new Commanding General at Parris Island, Brigadier General Austin E. Renforth, and other senior leaders to converse about new measures that have been implemented to prevent tragedies like this from occurring again in the future.
Following the visit, Congresswoman Dingell had the following to say: “The death of Private Siddiqui – a class valedictorian who was loved by all who knew him – has left his family and our entire community searching for answers. While this investigation has brought disturbing information to light, it is now critical that the proceedings move forward in a thorough and just manner, and that the Marine Corps holds those responsible accountable while ensuring this never happens again.
“This weekend’s visit was an opportunity to see firsthand the changes that are being implemented to achieve this goal. After meeting with General Renforth and talking with other key members of leadership, drill instructors, and recruits, it is clear that the Marine Corps is treating this issue with the seriousness it deserves. General Renforth has assured me this is personal to him and he is committed to working towards real change to help prevent a tragedy like this from happening in the future. As evidence of this, he has implemented immediate changes in both personnel and policies – including the mandatory suspension of personnel who are being investigated for abuse or hazing, adding more officers to oversee the recruit training process, and implementing other cultural changes. This is just a first step and continued monitoring in the weeks and months ahead will be necessary to ensure these policies have their intended effect.
“My heart aches for Private Siddiqui’s family. No matter what we do we can never bring him back, but we must ensure something good comes of this. The men and women who follow in his footsteps must receive fair treatment on their way to becoming our nation’s finest fighters.”
Congressman Issa added, “We owe it to our men and women who are training for service, and those that go on to serve, to provide appropriate mental and physical care for them to carry out their duties. The reports provided by the Marine Corp regarding the death of Recruit Siddiqui’s death are nothing short of heartbreaking.
“This weekend’s visit to Parris Island followed my recent appointment to view recruit training and School of Infantry training on Camp Pendleton. Our youth deserve the training and oversight to fulfill the missions of the Marine Corps in the safest manner possible. My conversations with Marine leadership in both locations provide assurance that action has been taken to ensure such a tragedy cannot occur in the future.
“Beyond training procedures and safeguards, we must do more to prevent active-duty personnel suicide overall. Statistics released earlier this year show the number of service members committing suicide remains unacceptably high while reserve suicide rates have increased. I remain committed to assisting our Marines and all of our services in working to provide all the support they need.”
Dingell has been in constant communication with the Marine Corps since Private Siddiqui’s death on March 18, 2016. She wrote General Neller seeking further clarification on the circumstances surrounding Siddiqui’s death, and consistently pressed for additional information about the investigation into drill instructors and senior leadership at Parris Island. The Marine Corps’ response to Dingell’s most recent letter can be viewed here. Upon completion, the Marine Corps investigation revealed deviations from established policies and procedures for Marine Corps recruit training. Twenty Recruit Training Regiment personnel have been identified for possible military justice or administrative action.