A Marine Corps drill instructor at Parris Island in South Carolina, has been charged in the 2021 death of Marine recruit Pfc. Dalton Beals, 19, the Marine Corps has confirmed.
The charges against Staff Sgt. Steven T. Smiley include one count of negligent homicide, one count of obstruction of justice, one count of cruelty, oppression, or maltreatment of subordinates, and another count with four specifications of failure to obey orders, Maj. Philip Kulczewski, a spokesman for Parris Island, South Carolina, told Marine Corps Times on Monday.
Beals died in June 2021 as a result of extreme body temperature while completing the culminating boot camp training event “the Crucible” in 90 plus degree temperatures.
An investigation shared with Marine Corps Times said Beals’ death was “likely avoidable” and that Smiley was at fault for not properly overseeing Beals or other recruits, even making them do extra physical training inappropriate for the day’s weather conditions.
In early November, Brig. Gen. Walker Field, the commanding general at Parris Island, South Carolina, was considering whether to make the referral to a general court-martial and officially made the call by the end of the week, as Task and Purpose first reported.
“The investigation revealed that although [Smiley] was technically qualified to serve as a senior drill instructor, he did not have the maturity, temperament, and leadership skills necessary to be an effective senior drill instructor,” the investigative report said.
Smiley, who became a staff sergeant in November 2017, was a Marine Corps Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting specialist before becoming a drill instructor, according to his service record.
He also reportedly worked as an AV-8B Harrier mechanic with Marine Attack Squadron 542 and deployed to Japan with them, according to a 2011 Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point news release.
Stacie Beals, the mother of Pfc. Dalton Beals, shared with Marine Corps Times she was hopeful that justice would be served.
“One step at a time and definitely heading in the right direction,” she said, adding that an arraignment will likely take place after Thanksgiving.
“This is far from over,” she said.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media