Marines clear senior instructor in recruit's injury

By Jeanette Steele

September 17, 2003

The Marine Corps Recruit Depot has cleared a senior instructor of wrongdoing in the injury of a recruit during martial arts training.

Grayson Fricke, a 21-year-old former child actor from Atlanta, broke his lower left leg and ankle when a first sergeant used a "leg sweep" technique on him during training June 23.

A three-week investigation "found that all procedures were followed," said Maj. Joe Kloppel, depot spokesman.

"There was nothing done maliciously," he said. "Everything done was part of the training" standard operating procedure.

Fricke was given an entry-level discharge for medical reasons.

The instructor's name has not been released.

In a telephone interview from Atlanta, Fricke's mother called the investigation a cover-up.

"I just think they are trying to protect their own and cover up for it, and I think they lie," Beth Fricke said.

Grayson Fricke said he was practicing the leg sweep technique with a partner when his company first sergeant approached and criticized them.

"First sergeant was mad because we weren't hitting each other hard enough," Fricke said in an interview. "He came over and grabbed me. He kicked me and broke my leg.

"As I tried to get up . . . he got mad because I grabbed him because I couldn't stand, and he kicked me again. And it broke my ankle."

Fricke said his instructors wouldn't believe he was hurt.

"They made me walk on it, and they were pulling on my leg and stuff," he said. "It was awful, cussing at me and stuff."

Kloppel declined to comment on Fricke's allegations, but said the safety of recruits is paramount to boot camp officials.

"They are our most precious commodity," he said. "At the same time, training here does involve physical activity."

About 17,000 recruits a year graduate from the 12-week boot camp at MCRD and become Marines. The San Diego depot trains most recruits from the western United States, and its counterpart at Parris Island, S.C., handles the rest.

Still on crutches, Fricke said he hopes his doctors will soon remove screws inserted to mend his injuries, which include a spiral fracture to his lower left leg, a broken ankle and heel and torn tendons.

Fricke, who had roles in several movies during the early 1990s, including "Fried Green Tomatoes" and "The Prince of Tides," said he plans to return to college.

He expressed disappointment in his Marine experience.

"I really wanted to be a Marine," he said. "The way they treat people, I totally don't think of the Marines the same way."

Jeanette Steele: (619) 718-5182;