Marines Suspend Eight DI’s in Wake of Tharp Drowning

Marines suspend drill instructors after recruit drowns (CNN)

Three additional drill instructors were suspended following the death last month of a Marine recruit, who drowned in a training pool the day after he allegedly was struck and grabbed during a training session, Marine Corps officials said Friday. Five Marines, including the platoon’s senior drill instructor, had already been suspended and a sixth put on administrative duty as the February 8 death of Jason Tharp was investigated. The three latest drill instructors suspended were members of Tharp’s platoon, the Marines said in a statement.


A Marine spokesman at the Pentagon said the actions by the drill instructors seen in the video appear to violate regulations for dealing with recruits. “The latest suspensions are based upon statements made to investigators by other members of Tharp’s platoon, and alleged improper contact by the three drill instructors during previous training,” Friday’s Marine statement said. “If the allegations are substantiated, the drill instructors will be held accountable for their actions as directed under the applicable laws and regulations.”

At the time the news came out, I suspected suicide as the most likely explanation for Tharp’s death. It’s still not clear what happened, and there’s no evidence that’s been made public of foul play, but it does seem that the DIs went beyond the limits of the regulations.

A televised report on CNN’s Headline News features a Capt. Marriot, who did an investigation months ago of the swim training for instructors at Camp Johnson and cited “a complete disregard for safety.” There may be a systemic problem in that case.

There’s a fine line between abusive treatment and pushing a recruit so that he can make it through the rigors of Boot. DIs are tasked with making that call, turning civilians into Marines who will have to endure pressures far more demanding than being pushed and yelled at.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Left of Liberal says:

    “They’re so good at making soldiers, but they’re not as good at making men” from “Gun Shy” by 10,000 Maniacs featuring Natalie Merchant.

    I grew up on military bases all over the planet, and my twin brother is a Ranger. He enlisted on his 18th birthday. My husband and I spent the first decade of our marriage all over the country on Air Force bases. He and his fellow missle-men won the cold war. Unlike most liberals, I’ve shopped in commissaries and BX’s, I’ve paid my dues and earned the right to be critical. I’m not a clueless twit who never met an active duty soldier spouting drivel. I have observed “Hoo-Ah” culture up close. I have examined it through Sociological and Anthropological lenses, and it gives me pause. The uncomfortable fact of the matter is, when your mission is to train people to kill, it is inevitable that there is a coarsening of the soul. A certain degree of humainity is extracted, and a degree of disregard for human life inevitably balances the equation. It is simply the price that must be paid. On this point, my brother and I are in complete agreement, and our Mom says we haven’t agreed on anything since the fourth or fifth month of gestation.