Family Sues USMC for $100M


By Debbie Gregory.

The family of 20-year-old Raheel Siddiqui, a Muslim Marine recruit who died after being slapped by drill instructor Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, is pushing to move forward with their $100 million lawsuit against the federal government.

Siddiqui’s death was ruled a suicide by a local coroner, which is disputed by his family.

The courts have consistently held that all claims relating to injuries to active-duty military personnel are not actionable in civil courts based on a longstanding legal doctrine that the government cannot be sued for injuries or deaths involving active-duty military personnel that occurred in the course of their service.

Shiraz Khan, the Siddiqui family attorney argues that Siddiqui should not be considered active-duty military because he hadn’t yet completed boot camp, and the hazing and abuse that led to his death because of his Muslim faith began during the recruitment phase.

Allegations of abuse involving other Muslim recruits at Parris Island involving Sgt.Felix had been raised prior to this incident.

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, Sgt.Felix allegedly slapped him. That is when Siddiqui allegedly ran through a door in the barracks and leaped over an exterior stairwell, falling three stories.

Felix was convicted of mistreating recruits, although he maintained his innocence throughout his court-martial.

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.

The government noted that following Siddiqui’s death, the family received $100,000 from the government in addition to a life insurance payment of more than $400,000.

Former Marines Develop App to turn Emails into Letters


By Debbie Gregory.

Did you know that U.S. Marine recruits aren’t able to make calls or send emails from boot camp? Now there is an app to address that problem.

SANDBOXX is a mobile app that connects the military community with their friends and loved ones by giving them the ability to send physical mail to those in basic training, boot camp or on deployment directly from their cell phones.

The SANDBOXX app allows loved ones to type a note on their smartphone and have it turned into a printed letter, which is then sent the old-fashioned way: snail mail. Recruits can then write a letter in return and have it converted back to email.

Former Marine Ray Smith was supposed to be retired, but instead he has teamed up with fellow former Marine Sam Meek after discussing their mutual interest for connecting the extended military community.

They founded SANDBOXX in 2013 and launched the letters app the following year to assist servicemembers and their spouses, parents, friends, siblings – anyone with a connection to the armed services.

The culture shock of suddenly losing contact to the online world can take a toll on morale and interfere with training, especially for the generations of men and women who have come of age with smartphone in hand.

Since the app was launched, SANDBOXX has passed some 900,000 letters through its platform, with about 70 percent of the company’s current letter volume coming from the Marine Corps.

But as word of the app spreads, more people are using it to contact deployed Army soldiers and Air Force personnel, with the app available to new Coast Guard members starting in January.

The ultimate goal of the company’s founders is to build a social media platform unique to the military community. They have already created a social media app called “units” based around the military’s organizational structure. Any current or former member of the U.S. military can log in, put in their unit and year, and be connected solely with people from that unit and year.

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?


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.

Marine Corps Ordered to End Gender Segregated Boot Camp by April


By Debbie Gregory.

While entry-level training for the other military services and Marine officers have been integrated for years, Marine Corps officials have maintained that separating the genders is the best way to train impressionable young recruits. But now, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has instructed the Corps to end gender-segregated initial training by April. This is a means to comply with Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s decision to open all military jobs to women.

Mabus ordered Commandant Gen. Robert Neller to submit a gender implementation plan by Jan. 15 to integrate enlisted basic training and officer candidate school.

GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) called for Mabus’s resignation over this attempt to end gender segregation at boot camp.

“The only way this relationship can be repaired, I believe, is through the leadership of a new Navy Secretary — specifically one who does not regularly make a point to undercut the Marine Corps, distract it from its mission and insult its leaders,” Hunter said in a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

The Pentagon is currently reviewing the plans submitted by the Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force detailing how they intend to open all previously male-only jobs to female troops.

The Marine Corps’ submission did not address entry training, the only military branch that segregates its entry training.

Making enlisted boot camp coed would likely require changes to infrastructure — such as restrooms and living quarters — and perhaps the size of the staff, the Marine official said.

While males may have concerns that adding females to all-male training units will diminish the challenge that recruit training provides young men, women fear it will impede the development of self-confidence among female recruits. Trainers may be leery of the sexual tension and resulting distraction that could accompany mixed gender boot camp. The most important thing to keep in mind is that recruit training is where Marines are made; not male Marines, not female Marines, but all Marines

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.