- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2002

The Marine Corps has uncovered a cheating scandal at its officer training base in Quantico.

Marine sources said 12 second lieutenants in a class of 67 officers were caught collaborating on a take-home test they were supposed to complete individually to qualify in battlefield communications. They were not graduated when the class finished the 23-week Communications Information Systems Officer Course in late April.

A spokesman at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico confirmed to The Washington Times that a test-cheating investigation is under way. An interim written report has been filed with commanders, who asked the investigating officer to continue the inquiry.

"The take-home exam was distributed the morning of April 16 and was due back the following morning," said Capt. Jerome Bryant, a Quantico spokesman. "There appears to be evidence that certain students possibly did collaborate on the exam. I cannot go into greater detail because anything I might say may influence potential administrative or disciplinary action."

Capt. Bryant said Brig. Gen. Leif Hendrickson, who commands the Marine Corps University within the combat command, could take actions ranging from dropping the investigation to convening a court-martial to try the officers on criminal charges.

The ongoing probe marks the second known cheating scandal since 1996 at Quantico, where newly minted Marine officers go through a number of schools before deploying to the fleet.

The Corps stresses loyalty and honesty, especially in its officer corps. When hints of cheating in a land-navigation test surfaced in 1996, the Corps conducted three investigations that implicated 35 second lieutenants at Quantico's officer basic-training school.

Some students made notes of the location of ammunition boxes that must be located with a compass and a map. They produced a "cheat sheet" that some officers used during the final field test. The Corps dismissed three student ringleaders from the Corps and handed administrative punishment to 10 others.

"I can't think of anything more serious that I've done since I've been here," said Quantico's then-commander, Lt. Gen. Paul Van Ripper, in December 1996.

In the ongoing investigation at Quantico, one communications student informed higher-ups about the collaboration, according to Marine sources. The base launched a probe, and other second lieutenants began implicating each other.

Said Capt. Bryant in a prepared statement:

"Twelve students of the Communication Information Systems Officer Course are subjects of a preliminary inquiry into potential officer misconduct, specifically for possibly collaborating on a take-home examination issued April 16.

"The preliminary investigation is still being conducted and has yet to have final review. At this point only an interim report has been submitted and the investigating officer was tasked to answer additional questions and to provide more detail on certain issues raised by the 'alleged' incident, hence the report has not been completed."

Marine Corps sources said the cheating, along with other problems in officer training, is prompting a reorganization of how second lieutenants are trained at Quantico.

Capt. Bryant said, "It would be inappropriate and premature to discuss any internal adjustments until they have been fully staffed."

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