PARRIS ISLAND, SC (WSAV) — “A Loss of trust and confidence.”
That’s why the U.S. Marine Corps is saying the top commanding officer and senior enlisted leader were relieved of their duties on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
“Your commanders are supposed to be the cream of the crop the best of the service has to offer,” explains Veteran advocate and Retired Lt Col Chris Ophardt.
But now both top recruit commanders at Parris Island are off the job.
“Anytime a commander is relieved it shows a failure to promote the right people,” says Ophardt.
Colonel Bradley Ward was the recruit training Regiment Commanding Officer on base from July 2021 until July 5 of this year.
He was a former recruit and drill instructor at Parris Island.
Sgt. Major Fabian Casillas was the Recruit Training Regiment Sergeant Major since 2022.
Retired Lt Colonel Chris Ophardt, who did 3 combat tours in Iraq, says this is a volatile time on the base especially among the drill instructors themselves.
“They are reevaluating right now, asking if am I doing the right thing,” said Ophardt. “Am I the next one, is someone going to blame me for doing something wrong? We already have one drill instructor facing charges on trial. I think they are all taking a hard look. That’s why the NCO (non-commissioned officer) was relieved as well. He normally mentors and oversees those drill sergeants.”
The Marine Corps isn’t discussing the firings, but the history of incidents, and specifically deaths on base may play a role.
Five recruits have died in just over two years.
The latest was back in June. 18-year-old Private Marshall Hartman had been on base for less than a week when he died in a “non-training incident”.
Private First Class Noah Evans lost his life in April during his final physical fitness test.
“No one should die before they join or even make it through basic training,” says Ophardt. “There are realistic hard nose training that you can do that simulates combat simulates deployments but doesn’t put your life in jeopardy.”
And these incidents and the lack of information connected to them, Ophardt says, have affected recruiting, and the military as a whole.
“Loss of confidence to lead is the standard line,” said Ophardt. “We don’t know the details, we don’t understand why. We kind of find out why 6 months or 12 months later and it is leading to a lack of confidence within the citizens of the United States.”
Investigations are currently open in both Evans and Hartman’s death.
Colonel Christopher McArther and Sgt. Major Michael Brown have been brought in to hold those leadership positions on the base.