The Marine Corps has formally charged former two drill instructors accused of hazing recruits at Parris Island in South Carolina, including one who allegedly threw one Muslim recruit in an industrial dryer and accosted another just before the recruit took his own life.
Gunnery Sgt. Joseph A. Felix and Sergeant Michael K. Eldridge will face general court-martial separately on charges of failure to obey a lawful order, cruelty and maltreatment, false official statement, and drunk and disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice, according to an announcement Wednesday from Marine Corps Training and Education Command.
Felix was also charged with obstruction of justice.
Sources identified Felix as the senior drill instructor cited in multiple command investigations for hazing recruits at the Parris Island recruit depot. According to one of three hazing investigations made public last year, Felix, whose name was not released in the document, allegedly told a Muslim recruit that the Marine Corps paid him to weed out spies.
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In a late-night hazing session, Felix allegedly asked the recruit repeatedly if he was part of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, shoving him into an industrial clothes dryer and turning it on several times in a simulated interrogation. The drill instructor also allegedly called the recruit a terrorist and said he had spent 14 years in the military fighting people "exactly like" him.
Felix was also the senior drill instructor for 20-year-old Raheel Siddiqui, another Muslim recruit who died in a tragic suicide March 18.
According to a command investigation focused on the circumstances surrounding Siddiqui's death, Siddiqui had been performing "get-backs," or back-and-forth sprints of some 150 feet when he fell to the ground, clutching his throat. According to the investigation, his drill instructor, Felix, yelled at him and slapped him in the face to wake him.
Shortly thereafter, Siddiqui ran out of the squad bay and vaulted over the third-story stairwell railing, falling to his death. The recruit's treatment at the hands of the drill instructor was found to likely have provided "impetus" for the suicide, investigators found.
Notably, Felix's charges do not include assault, a possible indicator that not all the allegations featured in the command investigations ultimately translated into charges.
Both former drill instructors will receive general court-martial proceedings at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, on dates that have yet to be set, according to the TECOM release. General courts-martial are the highest level of military courts, reserved for the most serious charges.
Felix and Eldridge are the fifth and sixth Parris Island drill instructors to face charges in connection with various incidents of alleged recruit hazing within 3rd Recruit Training Battalion.
Staff Sgts. Matthew Bacchus and Jose Lucena-Martinez, and Sgt. Riley Gress will all face special court-martial, an intermediate-level court for charges with penalties not exceeding a year of confinement. Burke is set to face general court-martial proceedings.
All four trials will take place at Quantico in Virginia, officials said.
-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.