Marine Recruit Jason Robert Tharp Drowns
Jeff Quinton sends a report with the headline “Video emerges of USMC recruit (who later died) being hit.” He links the following story at Columbia, SC’s WIS10:
On February 7th, News 10 was shooting a story at Parris Island about potential base closures. WIS happened to shoot video of a young recruit having a tense interaction with his drill instructor. That recruit was Jason Robert Tharp. Jason died at that pool 24 hours almost to the minute after the tape was shot.
News 10 was at Parris Island about 2:00pm on February 7th as two recruits were practicing advanced water training. Another was learning how to swim and there were at least three drill instructors in the pool. On the pool deck, WIS saw one recruit with his senior drill instructor. They were about 20 feet away from our photographer and because of a buzz at the pool, we couldn’t hear what they were saying.
News 10 asked the drill instructor on duty at the pool, SSgt. Anthony Davis, why they were there, “Right now, we have a recruit that’s refusing to train. He was getting in the water and he decided he wanted to quit and get out.” We now know that recruit was Jason Tharp. We asked Davis why the recruit was refusing to train, “Right now, looking at him and being over there watching him, he’s just afraid because he can’t do the swim qualification correctly, right now. He just wants to leave and go home.” WIS also asked him what the drill instructor might be saying, “He’s probably trying to connect with him him person to person, not drill instructor to recruit. Just person to person, trying to get him to understand he made a choice to come down here and that he should probably think about that choice and the decisions he’d made and just get in the water and try to accomplish something rather than quit and give up on himself.”
The next segment of video was shot from about 50 meters away and again, it is unclear what was being said. The tape shows physical contact between Jason and his drill instructor. There are very specific rules about when a drill instructor can touch a recruit. We don’t know if what we saw falls under those rules. And again, we don’t know what prompted that interaction or what happened afterward.
This is one poorly reported story, especially given the circumstances. The story is that a Marine recruit, who apparently desperately wanted to get out after realizing the training was more rigorous than he expected, is dead. A news crew has video of said recruit being trained by a drill instructor 24 hours prior. They have no idea what was said. There was “physical contact” the nature of which they have no idea about, nor do they know whether it was within the rules.
Neither Jeff nor WIS has an actual link to the video. My strong suspicion, though, from what I know of military swim training and the training military drill instructors undergo, is that the DI did not in fact “hit” Tharp or in any direct way cause his drowning. Recruits wash out of boot camp every cycle. DI’s don’t take that personally. Part of a DI’s job is to weed out those who can’t make it. A bigger part of their job, though, is to get those recruits who are simply scared because they’re being pushed past their comfort zone over the hump. Indeed, that’s ninety percent of turning a recruit into a Marine.
Sadly, though, DI’s are only human. They don’t always recognize which recruits are past their breaking points, even to the point of suicide. A significant number of trainees kill themselves every year. Suicide is a lot more likely culprit in this tragedy than a rogue DI.
US Active Duty Military Deaths, 1980-2002 (DOD) – PDF format
Suicides, Iraq and Things No One Wants To Talk About (James Dunnigan, March 2004)
Update (2-19): Jeff Quinton reports the DI has been suspended pending completion of the investigation. He also has the video.