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Corps Pledges to 'Carefully' Investigate Recruit's Death at Boot Camp

Drill instructors present their new Marines with Eagle, Globe and Anchors during the emblem ceremony Sept. 7, 2013, at the Iwo Jima flag raising statue on Parris Island, S.C. (Photo by Lance Cpl. MaryAnn Hill)
Drill instructors present their new Marines with Eagle, Globe and Anchors during the emblem ceremony Sept. 7, 2013, at the Iwo Jima flag raising statue on Parris Island, S.C. (Photo by Lance Cpl. MaryAnn Hill)

Marine Corps brass are assuring a U.S. congresswoman that any indication of hazing connected with the March death of a recruit at Parris Island, South Carolina, will be "carefully investigated."

In a June 6 letter to Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, Brig. Gen. David Furness said two investigations into the death of 20-year-old recruit Raheel Siddiqui are ongoing. Few details are officially available yet.

Furness, the legislative assistant to Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, was responding to an April 4 request from Dingell for detailed information into the death of Siddiqui, a Muslim American from Taylor, Michigan, who had been at boot camp for just 11 days when he died from a 40-foot fall from a barracks building, according to Naval Criminal Investigative Service officials.

Dingell asked specifically for a timeline of the events that led to Siddiqui's death, whether hazing played a role, and if the March 31 firing of 3rd Recruit Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon was connected to the recruit's death.

Furness' letter comes the same day as the firing of another top officer at Parris Island: the Recruit Training Regiment Commander, Col. Paul Cucinotta. Cucinotta was relieved due to information that came to light over the course of an investigation regarding instances where policies and procedures were not followed, officials with Marine Corps Training and Education Command said.

An official confirmed to Military.com that the investigation was related to Siddiqui's death.

The top officer at Parris Island, Brig. Gen. Terry Williams, has so far avoided repercussions in relation to the tragedy. Following a scheduled change of command June 10 with incoming commander Brig. Gen. Austin Renforth, Williams is set to return to Washington, D.C., to become assistant deputy commandant for Installations and Logistics at the Pentagon.

Furness said Kissoon's firing was in response to an investigation unrelated to the tragedy. Siddiqui's family, he said, would receive the results of a command line-of-duty investigation into Siddiqui's death once it was complete, and they would be able to request the NCIS investigation as well.

"Regarding your concern that hazing may have played a role in Private Siddiqui's death, it would be premature to comment given that the investigations are still pending," Furness wrote. "I can assure you that any indication of hazing will be carefully investigated."

In a statement released by her office, Dingell urged the Marine Corps to act quickly to complete the investigations and provide answers to the Siddiqui family about their son, "a class valedictorian who was loved by all who knew him."

"I will continue working to ensure the Siddiqui family has the resources and support they need during the ongoing investigations and beyond, and will remain fully engaged with the Marine Corps and all stakeholders to ensure we have a clear picture of what happened, including the actions that led to the June 6th discharge of a commanding officer at Parris Island," Dingell wrote. "This is the very least Private Siddiqui's family and our community deserve."

--Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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