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Former Marine Drill Instructor Pleads Guilty to Charges in Recruit’s Death

Kissoon

By Debbie Gregory.

Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon, the highest-ranking Marine implicated in the recruit abuse and hazing scandal following the death of a Muslim recruit, has pleaded guilty to charges of dereliction of duty, making a false statement and conduct unbecoming an officer. Kissoon has chosen to take an early retirement.

Raheel Siddiqui died at Parris Island after a fall that the Marine Corps characterized as a suicide. Siddiqui, in his second week on the island, was reported to have been trying to request permission to go to medical for a sore throat on the day of his death. He was refused medical attention, instead being forced to run laps in his barracks. When he collapsed on the floor, he was allegedly slapped by his senior drill instructor, Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix. It was then that Siddiqui supposedly ran through a door in the barracks and leaped over an exterior stairwell, falling three stories.

Kissoon’s was the final court-martial in connection with the 20-year-old’s death.

Siddiqui’s parents have maintained that their son, as both a faithful Muslim and son, was morally incapable of purposely killing himself. In Islam, suicide is a mortal sin.  They also claim that Siddiqui never had any mental health issues or threatened suicide. He had spent months training with his recruiter before boot camp in order to succeed. The family has filed a $100 million lawsuit against the federal government claiming negligence led to their son’s death.

Felix was convicted by a military court of abusing Siddiqui, as well as two additional Muslim recruits on separate occasions.

Felix received a dishonorable discharge, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Following Siddiqui’s death, the Marine Corps instituted a zero-tolerance policy for abusing and hazing recruits.

In total, five Marines, including Felix and Kissoon, were either convicted or pleaded guilty at courts-martial.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Former Marine Staff Sgt. Joe Chamblin Wins Again in Court

chamblin

By Debbie Gregory.

Once again, a military court has voided the conviction of former Marine Staff Sgt. Joe Chamblin, who was filmed urinating on Taliban corpses during a 2011 deployment to Afghanistan. The video was first posted by TMZ in January 2012, prompting an international backlash.

Chamblin was sentenced to 30 days’ confinement. The resulting demotion to sergeant ultimately ended his Marine Corps career.

Last November, five years after the initial sentence, the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the case be set aside because of apparent unlawful command influence, which occurs when a senior military officer uses his or her position of authority to influence legal proceedings. The ruling cited the actions of now-retired Gen. James Amos, who was commandant of the Marine Corps from 2010 to 2014, and some of his senior staff members.

Then-Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, who was initially appointed to oversee the sniper prosecutions, testified that Gen. Amos met with him and told him the defendants needed to be “crushed” for their actions.

Waldhauser, now a four-star general overseeing U.S. Africa Command, later told Amos that he had decided against sending any of the Marines to a general court-martial, the military’s most serious form of trial.  Shortly thereafter, Waldhauser was replaced by another general.

According to Waldhauser, Amos said at the time that he had “crossed the line” in his previous conversation and was removing Waldhauser as a remedy.

The Marine Corps failed to notify the accused Marines and their attorneys why Waldhauser was removed.

The appellate judges also considered the decision by the Marine Corps’ top lawyer at that time to remove another attorney on the case who had protested what he considered the “irregular classification of evidence.”

The ruling specifically blamed Amos for complicating the case.

The government has two months to decide whether to ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) to consider the case. For the military, CAAF is the final appellate step before the Supreme Court.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

New Battle Skills Test All Marines Must Pass

basic skills

By Debbie Gregory.

In October 2016, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green said the Corps was considering reviving the common skills test, which some enlisted Marines and officers used to take. But now, beginning in January, 2018, that proposed testing will become a reality.

At the start of 2018, all U.S. Marines, from privates through general officers, will need to be on their toes as the Corps launces the first of what will be an annual Battle Skills Test.

Marines will be tested on 30 of the 178 common skills that recruits learn at boot camp and the School of Infantry or Marine Combat Training. All Marines will have to pass the skills test each year.

The few/ the proud will need to demonstrate a variety of skills that fall in the following categories: basic infantry skills, communications, first aid, history, leadership and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Each section has specific time requirements and parameters that will determine if the Marine has passed or failed the evaluation. It will be up to the discretion of the small unit leader on how the tests are administered.

“This is the commandant directing units to be able to go back and do fundamental, basic Marine skills that they may not have in their training plans,” said Lt. Col. Stuart Glenn of Training and Education Command.

Glenn said all Marines will be tested on “the basic fundamentals of what it means to be a Marine,” which will help Marines prevail in both conventional and irregular warfare.

“The Marine Corps emphasizes the ethos of every Marine a rifleman,” Glenn said. “Getting back to these basic skills, now I know that no matter what a Marine’s MOS is, no matter what his unit is, he knows how to put on a tourniquet; he knows how to treat a cold weather injury; he knows how to operate a radio.”

Information about the required training and the evaluation checklists can be downloaded from Training and Education Command’s SharePoint site and the Marine Corps Training Information Management System.

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Family of Marine Recruit who Died at Parris Island Sues for $100 Million

siddiqui

By Debbie Gregory.

The parents of a former Marine recruit who died at Parris Island after a three-story fall have filed a $100 million lawsuit against the federal government.

Ghazala Siddiqui and Masood Siddiqui claim their son, Raheel,  was “assaulted, hazed and discriminated against because of his Muslim faith, and died after allegedly being abused.

The lawsuit claims the Marines “fostered a culture of abuse and hazing” at the training base at Parris Island, S.C.that led to the death of the 20-year-old in March, 2016.

The Marines have maintained that Siddiqui’s death was a suicide, a conclusion that his family has rejected, along with suggestions that Siddiqui was somehow not prepared for the rigors of Parris Island.

Siddiqui, in his second week on the island, was reported to have been trying to request permission to go to medical for a sore throat on the day of his death. He was refused medical attention, instead being forced to run laps in his barracks. When he collapsed on the floor, his drill instructor allegedly slapped him. That is when Siddiqui allegedly ran through a door in the barracks and leaped over an exterior stairwell, falling three stories.

Siddiqui succumbed to his injuries at Medical University of South Carolina Hospital several hours later. His parents have maintained that their son, as both a faithful Muslim and son, was morally incapable of purposely killing himself. In Islam, suicide is a mortal sin.  They also claim that Siddiqui never had any mental health issues or threatened suicide. He had spent months training with his recruiter before boot camp in order to succeed.

Making him seem weak or unprepared, the family and their lawyer argue, shifts blame away from where it belongs: with the Marines.

Following Siddiqui’s death, the Marine Corps instituted a zero-tolerance policy for abusing and hazing recruits.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Majority of Female Marines Opt for Pull Ups in New Fitness Test

pullups

By Debbie Gregory.

Female Marines want to show that their physical abilities have improved over the last few years. Some 65 percent of them voluntarily performed pull ups during their annual physical fitness test (PFT) this year. This is a vast improvement from three years ago when fewer than half of female recruits in boot camp couldn’t complete three pull ups.

Last year saw a massive overhaul to the Marine Corps’ PFT, with major changes to upper-body strength requirements designed to make equal demands on female and male troops.

All Marines have the option to perform push ups or pull ups. Pull ups, which are more difficult to perform, are the only option to anyone who seeks to get a perfect score.

For women, depending on which of eight age groups they fall into, they can max their score with between three and 10 pull ups; male Marines can max out with between 18 and 23.

The vast improvement this year “is a marker for how this change has incentivized female Marines on the PFT,” said Brian McGuire, deputy force fitness branch head for the standards division of Marine Corps Training and Education Command.

Four years ago, only around 1,000 of all female Marines chose pull ups; three years ago, the number increased to more than 1,700; two years ago, more than 1,900 opted for pull ups; and last year it was just under 2,000, or roughly 14 percent of all female Marines, according to McGuire.

Marines, both male and female, must declare in advance which event they want to execute. If they opt for pull ups and fail, they are not allowed to then switch to push ups.

The updated upper body strength standards come on the heels of combat jobs being opened to women.

The Corps is promoting a pull up training plan designed by a female officer to increase success, as well as developing a program to make professional fitness instructors available to the force.

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Marine Corps Looking to Turn Officers into PhDs

Flag_of_the_United_States_Marine_Corps.svg

By Debbie Gregory.

Two pilot programs are being offered by the U.S. Marine Corps that would allow qualified majors through lieutenant colonels to receive their PhDs with the Corps picking up the tab, as long as they agree to stay in the service for an additional six years.

Interested applicants should get moving: with only four officers being picked, it will be competitive. And applications are only being accepted through the end of this month.

Two of the recipients will be required to pursue a doctorate in strategic affairs, geared toward  national security, military history, public policy, political science, government, or some other related field.

The other two will be required to attend a doctoral program with a technical focus in operations research, modeling virtual environments and simulation (MOVES), information sciences, or computer science.

The MOVES program focuses on the principles of applied visual simulation technology and the application of quantitative analyses to human-computer interaction. The coursework may include instruction in object-oriented programming, artificial intelligence, computer communications and networks, computer graphics, virtual worlds and simulation systems, probability, statistics, stochastic modeling, data analysis, human-performance evaluation, and human-behavior modeling.

Interested candidates must already have a masters degree, or currently be pursuing one if they are applying for the technical doctorate.

By developing a cohort of strategic thinkers and technical leaders, the Marine Corps has a goal of achieving innovative thinking. This will be the result of applying substantive knowledge, directing original research, and leveraging relationships with industry and elements of national security.

“Uniformed doctorates provide the Marine Corps deployable, highly-skilled manpower in support of senior leader decision-making as well as helping generate national, defense, and service strategies in an increasingly complex world.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Calling All Marines:$10K Bonus for Early Re-Enlistment

 

reenlistment

By Debbie Gregory.

The Marine Corps has announced that as part of its fiscal year 2018 budget, the service branch will pay out $10,000 to Marines who sign their re-enlistment by September 30, 2017. The bonus is in addition to any Selective Retention Bonus.

“Retaining our experienced and qualified Marines remains one of the Commandant’s highest priorities,” the Corps announced in the budget document released on July 6th. “Achieving retention goals is vital for shaping and sustaining the Marine Corps’ enlisted force.”

Marines are eligible for retention bonuses based on their rank, military occupational specialty and how much active-duty service they have in the military.

Marines who volunteer to serve as drill instructors, recruiters, or security guards will get a bonus of $20,000. The highest bonuses will go to Zone B Marines (who have between 6 and 10 years of service) in the 2612 cyber MOS, who are eligible for a rate of $98,500 over a six-year reenlistment period.  But according to Capt. Scott Steele, career force planner at Manpower & Reserve Affairs, there are only eight Marines who are eligible for that particular payout.

“Zone A” Marines have between 17 months and 6 years of service; “Zone C” Marines have between 10 and 14 years.

The other service branches have all announced similar plans to rebuild force structure with the exception of the Navy, which decreased 14 selective reenlistment bonus levels and eliminated six skills from the list of bonus-eligible careers.

“The intent is to keep them  — to the maximum extent possible  — within the unit that they’re already in,” said Col. Gaines Ward, manpower plans officer for Manpower & Reserve Affairs.

“It’s a greater return on the investment for the time that the commander puts into training these individuals to have these qualifications.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

 

Can Cyber Geeks Make It Into The Marines and Skip Boot Camp?

cyber123

By Debbie Gregory.

The Marine Corps is having a hard time getting people with essential IT and information security skill sets as the services struggle to build a force of “cyber-warriors.” In an effort to circumvent this problem, these cyber specialists might be able to skip boot camp altogether.

The proposal, initially proposed last year by then-Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, is one of several ideas being considered to combat concerns about severe cyber warfare readiness.

Carter also suggested the military should consider modifying fitness standards, grooming regulations or rules that make past drug use disqualifying in an effort to make recruiting cyber talent easier.

Marine Corps force planners are discussing the option of “lateral entry” for people with the desired skill sets to join as uniformed Marines.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Robert B. Neller said that having a skilled cyber workforce within the service was critical. “If you don’t have those things, whatever formation you put on the battlefield is not going to be as survivable or combat effective without them.”

The government has tried a number of ways to develop a “cyber-skilled” workforce. Another option would be to treat Marine Forces Cyberspace Command like Marine Corps Special Operations Command, limiting entry to more experienced Marines. Some have even argued for a standalone cyber service, following the same model used to recruit musicians for the Marine Corps Band.

Considering the going pay rate in the civilian world for many information security jobs, the DOD will have to make a significant investment to attract the right people to uniformed service. With that said, offering the prestige of a Marine uniform may be a draw to some young people with high-level cyber skills.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Air Force Relaxes Tattoo Policy to Help Recruitment

tattat

By Debbie Gregory.

In an effort to open the door to more recruits who would otherwise be barred from service because of their body ink, the U.S. Air Force is revamping its restrictions on tattoos.

The U.S. Marines overhauled its tattoo restrictions about six months ago, with the goal of balancing “the personal desires of Marines with high standards of professional military appearance and heritage.”

The new Air Force tattoo policy, which goes into effect on February 1, eliminates the “25% coverage rule” which limited the relative size of tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs. The rule had required that no tattoos cover more than 25% of the body part or readily visible when wearing a uniform.

The policy will not affect areas of the body where tattoos are currently not allowed, including the neck, face, head, tongue, lips and scalp. Hand tattoos will be limited to a single-band ring tattoo on one finger of one hand. The Air Force said that would preserve the ability to present a formal military image when required with dress uniforms at certain events.

Tattoos, brands and body markings that are obscene, affiliated with gangs or extremist groups, along with those that advocate sexual, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination, are still banned.

While Marines can have an unlimited number of tattoos that are covered by the properly fitting standard physical training uniform (green t-shirt and green shorts) any tattoo, regardless of where it is, cannot express sexism, nudity, racism, vulgarity, or anything that is offensive as to discredit the Marine Corps or damage the nation’s expectations of them.

One in every five people looking at signing up had tattoos requiring review or that could be considered disqualifying, the Air Force said.

“These changes allow the Air Force to aggressively recruit talented and capable Americans who until now might not have been able to serve our country in uniform,” Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody said.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

 

Destroyer Will Bear the Name of Marines’ First African-American Aviator

petersen

By Debbie Gregory.

A U.S. Navy destroyer warship that is under construction has been named in honor of a Topeka three-star general who became the first African-American aviator, general and base commander in the Marine Corps.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, DDG 121, will be named for Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen Jr.

Petersen enlisted in the Navy in June, 1950.  In October 1952, he completed flight training and accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Petersen served a combat tour in the Korean War (1953) and in the Vietnam War (1968).

Petersen’s first tactical assignment was with Marine Fighter Squadron 212 during the Korean War. He would fly over 350 combat missions, and had over 4,000 hours in various fighter/attack aircraft. He held command positions at all levels of Marine Corps aviation, commanding a Marine Fighter Squadron, a Marine Aircraft Group and a Marine Aircraft Wing.

“The courage and perseverance of Lt. Gen. Petersen throughout his distinguished and groundbreaking career make him especially deserving of this honor,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. “Those who serve aboard DDG 121 will, for decades, carry on the storied legacy of this Marine Corps hero.”

Petersen retired after 38 years of service in 1988 as the senior aviator on active duty in the U.S. military. Highly decorated, Petersen received multiple awards for his service including the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Legion of Merit with Valor Device.

In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Petersen to the Board of Visitors to the U.S. Naval Academy. The board monitors morale and instruction.

Petersen died in 2015 at the age of 83.

Construction of the USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. began April 27 at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Pascagoula,Mississippi. The ship will be 509 feet long, have a beam length of 59 feet and be capable of operating at speeds in excess of 30 knots. It is expected to enter the Navy fleet in 2020.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.