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Marine tells of abusive treatment

He testifies at the court-martial of an ex-drill instructor, who he says inspired such fear that other DIs used his name as a threat.

November 09, 2007|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO -- A young Marine testifying Thursday at the court-martial of ex-drill instructor Sgt. Jerrod Glass said that a more senior instructor had threatened recruits with the prospect of turning their training over to Glass.

Pfc. Eric McCormick testified that Sgt. Brian Wendel told recruits that "he'd hand things over to Sgt. Glass if he wanted training to get more physical." Within days, McCormick said, there was "a show of fear [whenever] Sgt. Glass walked in."

McCormick testified that Glass kicked him and that he saw Glass abuse other recruits, forcing one to run through the barracks holding a trash can and yelling, "I'm a piece of trash!"

Though McCormick's testimony supported the prosecution's theory that Glass violated Marine Corps rules banning hitting or degrading recruits, his testimony also backed the defense's assertion that Glass was only following orders from more experienced drill instructors who asked him to get tough with a platoon thought to be soft.

Of the drill instructors assigned to the platoon, Glass, 25, who has done two tours of Iraq, was the least experienced. He faces 10 charges of abuse, which carry a maximum penalty of 11 years in prison.

Several Marines have testified that Glass functioned under the philosophy that "pain retains," believing that the best way to correct even a small transgression -- moving one's head while standing at attention, holding a rifle with one hand rather than two, getting out of bed before reveille -- was to inflict pain.

Jonathan Rogas, who is no longer in the Marine Corps, testified that Glass struck him with a flashlight when he wasn't moving quickly enough during a field exercise. Lance Cpl. Calvin Ludwig testified that Glass hit him with a flashlight when Ludwig said, "Good evening, sir," rather than the required "By your leave, sir."

After a recruit alleged to the senior drill instructor, Sgt. Robert Hankins, that Glass had struck a recruit repeatedly with a tent pole because the recruit could not open his foot locker, all four drill instructors were relieved of duty. Hankins and Wendel face lesser charges than Glass.

Defense attorneys assert that it is common for the least experienced drill instructor to be tasked with being the toughest on recruits. Such an instructor is referred to as the "kill-hat," the lead defense attorney told the jury.

The young Marines testified that they thought the brutal treatment was an accepted part of boot camp.

Pfc. Richard Williver, speaking about the recruit Glass allegedly beat for being unable to open his foot locker, said, "He was getting encouraged to remember his combination by getting hit on the head with a tent pole."

tony.perry@latimes.com

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