Former Marines React to Recruit Treatment - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

02/21/05

Former Marines React to Recruit Treatment

Former Marines are speaking out about the treatment of recruits on Parris Island. A young recruit died during training. But the day before, drill instructors roughed up the recruit and a news crew caught it on tape. The Marine Corps suspended five Marines, including a drill instructor, as the investigation continues.

Some former Marines say what's shown on the video is nothing compared to the way it can be.

The video of Jason Tharp was taken the day before he died. It shows him being grabbed and roughed up by his drill instructor. Another time he's shown being struck as other Marines stood by and watched.

We showed the video to Cliff Helmey. He's a former Marine and 1998 Parris Island graduate. Cliff says this should have never happened to Jason. "They tell most recruits, if a drill instructor is to come in contact with you with physical force such as that, you can request mass, go to a higher level and report it," he said.

Former Marine Jimmy Ray, who graduated from Parris Island back 1970, also watched the video and had a much different reaction. "Being pushed around, being grabbed by the belt, maybe shoved, maybe slapped in the face, not to brake your jaw but to get your attention, is part of the training because they're going to go through a lot worse than that," he said.

The day after the video was recorded, Jason drowned training in the pool at Parris Island. Whether there is any connection to the drill instructor's treatment of Jason and his death remains under investigation.

Both Cliff and Jimmy say they know the Marine training is brutal, but it's nothing compared to what a Marine will face on the battlefield.

"Everything that they're taught, when they're pushed around, yelled at, it's for their own good, because life isn't going to get any better especially when they get into an area that's hot," said Jimmy.

"One thing we have to realize is that these recruits aren't Marines yet, this is all part of their training," said Cliff. "Some cannot make it, some can."

Jason Tharp's death is still under investigation and his parents are planning to sue. They said their son was sick and should not have been at the pool that day.

Reported by: Nicole Teigen, nteigen@wtoc.com

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