A Jewish Marine who fled his post at Aberdeen Proving Ground last month said yesterday he went AWOL to avoid the anti-Semitic harassment he suffered there, culminating in a derogatory remark he says someone scribbled on his door.
Joshua S. Narins, 26, a private based at Aberdeen's weapons school, said he will surrender to Aberdeen authorities today. But first, he will hand over a petition asking Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Charles C. Krulak to investigate hate crimes and "racist and/or extremist activity within the ranks of the Marine Corps, particularly at Aberdeen."
Aberdeen and Marine Corps officials said they had questions about the validity of Narins' harassment complaint but would investigate.
Lt. Col. Scott Campbell, a spokesman at Marine Corps' headquarters in Washington, said that Narins' allegations are being taken seriously and that "if these things are corroborated, somebody will be held accountable."
But Ed Starnes, a spokesman for the Ordnance Center and School where Narins was based, said, "There's been some question about who wrote the [derogatory remark on his door] -- including, possibly, himself."
First, however, the Marines want to apprehend Narins for his unauthorized departure Feb. 21. Narins was declared a deserter 30 days later. "We're trying to gather information on the allegations," said Capt. Douglas Hibbard, a top Marine staff member at the Aberdeen Army base. "But desertion is a serious offense."
Narins, of Bernardsville, N.J., the son of a retired lieutenant colonel, enlisted in the Marines in May. After completing basic training at Parris Island, S.C., he was assigned in August to Aberdeen, where he was being trained to repair sight devices used to aim weapons.
In his letter to Krulak, he claims he was subjected to an "escalating pattern of harassment" that culminated Feb. 17, when someone wrote "kike -- gas em" on the 3-by-5-inch name card on his barracks door.
According to Narins' attorney, Narins told two superiors of the harassment, but they did not convince him that they could ensure his safety. "He was really frightened," said Tod Ensign, director of Citizen Soldier in New York, a nonprofit advocacy group representing Narins. "He just felt like he had to leave."
Narins, with his parents and lawyer, will speak at a news conference scheduled for 10 a.m. today at the Holiday Inn in downtown Baltimore, where he will release copies of his letter to Krulak and then surrender.
The harassment claims come two years after Aberdeen went from an obscure outpost to home of the Army's worst sex scandal. A dozen male trainers were charged with raping or harassing female subordinates. Four were sent to prison, and the others were discharged or resigned.
But last month, Army leadership and the Army's inspector general announced an investigation into whether black instructors were targeted for prosecution. Investigators plan to look into whether the sex charges were racially motivated.
The military has faced many questions in recent years about racial discrimination and extremist tendencies in its ranks.
Last year, a sergeant was discharged from Fort Bragg, N.C., for painting swastikas on a barracks door. And in December, seven former Marine Corps military police officers were indicted for assaulting illegal immigrants living in bushes outside Camp Pendleton in San Diego. Those and other incidents have fueled fears that the military has become a breeding ground for extremists opposed to minorities, women and gays.
Many of those fears are also tied to last year's conviction of two Army paratroopers who were sentenced to life in prison for killing a black couple in Fayetteville, N.C., near Fort Bragg, in what prosecutors claimed was a skinhead initiation rite. An Army task force investigated white supremacist activity in the Army and found "minimal evidence."
Pub Date: 4/08/98