Marines Investigate Assault of Recruit
Beaufort Gazette Online
April 24, 2002
A Parris Island recruit who allegedly was beaten into a coma might have been assaulted by his own drill instructors, according to a report from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service obtained by The Beaufort Gazette.
Recruit Heath A. White, 24, of Dry Fork, Va., is listed in serious condition at Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
The NCIS report said it had "substantiated allegations against drill instructor team members" of the 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, indicating their involvement in "physical assaults against (the) victim and recruits within the platoon."
The report said the NCIS investigation indicated that the "violations related to (the) victim occurred during the 18 hours leading up to (the) victim's collapse."
The allegations also included alleged violations of Marine Corps standard operating procedures.
Heath White, a recruit in his first week of training, reported feeling faint March 8 while preparing to participate in a training exercise at Parris Island.
He fell unconscious shortly thereafter and was taken to U.S. Naval Hospital Beaufort for treatment. He was sent to Beaufort Memorial Hospital for a CT scan and an hour later was airlifted to MUSC.
White was diagnosed with an intracranial hemorrhage with edema -- swelling of the brain and a ruptured blood vessel inside the brain.
Capt. James Chittenden, public affairs officer at Parris Island, said Tuesday that an investigation into the matter is under way.
"In accordance with standard procedures, anytime there is a serious injury or illness involving a recruit, an investigation is initiated," he said.
"An investigation is ongoing in the case of Recruit White, and it is premature to speculate beyond the fact that a recruit is being treated for a medical condition."
Additional information requested by the Gazette was not available from PI officials Tuesday night.
The report said that an Article 32 investigation would be launched once charges were drafted. Chittenden said Tuesday that the three Marines allegedly involved in the assault had not been charged.
An Article 32 investigation is the military equivalent of a grand jury or pre-trial hearing. An accused serviceman can be present during the process, and his attorney can examine and cross-examine witnesses and present evidence.
An Article 32 investigation must be carried out before any charge is sent on for court-martial, according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
White's father, Alvis, was reluctant to speculate on the NCIS report and said he was unaware of the assault allegations.
"I'm not going to say anything until I get more definite information on paper," he said by phone from his home in Dry Fork. "All we've heard is talk. I don't want to be telling you something that's not right."
Although his son remains in serious condition, White said he hasn't given up, and he knows his son won't give up, either.
The Marine recruit, who turned 24 last month, spent his birthday in the hospital in a coma, his father said.
His mother's voice was heavy with sadness as she talked by telephone Tuesday from his bedside in the acute care unit at MUSC.
"He was a hard-working family man," said Kathy White, the beeps from her son's life signs-monitoring equipment clearly audible in the background.
Alvis White said Heath has come "in and out" of consciousness, and that he appears to be slowly improving.
"He's not a quitter," the recruit's father said.
Copyright 2002 The Beaufort Gazette.
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