IG CORNER - Army focuses on ending hazing
Story by: Lt. Col. Jessie Robinson RC EAST IG
Hazing is any conduct whereby one military member or employee, regardless of service or rank, unnecessarily causes another military member or employee, regardless of service or rank, to suffer or be exposed to an activity which is cruel, abusive, oppressive or harmful. – AR 600-20 Army Command Policy 4-20.
The Army has focused on eliminating hazing, especially within the last year. Senior leaders have voiced their intent to Congress, members of the military and the American public.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chief of Staff of Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III have voiced concern and let it be known that a zero-tolerance policy will be in place.
The latter three leaders issued a memo Jan. 13 further defining hazing, exploring its negative effects and unequivocally stating hazing will not be tolerated. Hazing is not in line with Army values and does not fit the Army mandate of treating Soldiers with dignity and respect.
Since Panetta, Dempsey, Odierno, McHugh, Chandler and Congress have recognized that a problem exists within our ranks, and since most in the Army recognize that hazing should not happen, why does hazing still occur?
Our office has seen that, while the message is being heard, the zero-tolerance hazing message is sometimes not fully processed and understood – not internalized. In some cases, what hazing is is not completely understood.
Hazing also is being justified with choruses of, "senior leaders don't understand the realities on the ground," "hazing is team building or bonding," and "it happened to me, and I am a better Soldier."
Hazing is being defended as tradition. In reality, hazing is ritualized bullying.
The most egregious forms of hazing our office has seen seem to occur in combat theaters worldwide; though hazing is not limited to areas of deployment. Hazing has no bounds.
On a different post, there was a highly publicized case of male Soldiers being finger raped by other male Soldiers as part of initiation to a unit. There also have been a number of high profile cases where Soldiers were harassed to the point of suicide.
Even though the 1st Infantry Division is by far one of the best formations when it comes to discipline and being able to accomplish any mission, we are not immune to the universal woes of the Army.
Hazing has no place in the Army. Hazing has nothing to do with being a professional Soldier. Hazing is wrong; it is contrary to Army values and regulations.
When hazing occurs, Soldiers often assume their command has somehow sanctioned the actions. In truth, this is not always true.
Incidents of hazing frequently come to a screeching halt, with great outcome, once leaders gain knowledge of hazing.
In one instance, a Soldier had been terrorized by a squad leader. The Soldier was repeatedly awoken at 2 a.m., taken into the desert and forced into extensive physical exercise to the point of muscle failure and beyond. The unit discovered what was happening when a fellow Soldier found the victimized Soldier contemplating imminent suicide.
The command took immediate corrective action. They retrained the unit concerning hazing. They dealt quickly and severely with the perpetrators via court martial. Morale and command climate sky rocketed.
In another battalion, some senior noncommissioned officers utilized harsh tactics to deal with Soldiers who fell short of the standards.
Those tactics, which equated to hazing, had been occurring for years. When the hazing tactics were discovered during the course of an inspection, and the battalion commander and sergeant major were informed, the leadership responded with immediate and substantial corrective actions in the form of a hasty noncommissioned officer professional development training where the battalion command sergeant major clarified a zero-tolerance policy. The unit and the culture of the unit changed for the better overnight and maintained the healthier, more effective style.
Hazing is perpetuated when leaders do not take an active role in addressing it. Hazing is like a weed. It has to be cut down and killed. Inaction allows it to self-perpetuate.
When Soldiers assume leaders know and sanction hazing, faith in leadership is lost. The inaction of a leader is the same as sanctioning the hazing.
When leaders enforce a zero-tolerance policy, Soldiers faith and trust in their leaders is reinvigorated and Army values are reinforced. It will take leaders attacking this form of toxic behavior to end hazing.
AR 600-100 (Army Leadership) and AR 600-20 (Army Command Policy) make it clear that hazing is not an action expected of our leaders.
Our senior leadership has made a zero-tolerance policy clear. Our leaders are to treat subordinates with dignity, respect, fairness and consistency, thereby empowering subordinates.
The Army is a professional organization based on values and the warrior ethos. We live by creeds. Our soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership. Orders are followed because we are men and women of integrity. Duty first!
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