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There Really Is No Place For Hazing In A Professional Military
The vigorous Twitter response to the recent piece “There’s A Reason For All That Hazing And Ass-Chewing, And We Shouldn’t Ignore It” highlighted a need to disentangle a few types of unprofessional behavior that seem to be getting conflated in discussions and also to answer Tom’s question about how widespread support of hazing is in the military.
There’s been a push toward increased professionalism in the military underway for quite some time. It’s been accompanied by grousing from both those currently serving and veterans. Some of this is typical “back in my day” grumbling of the type I heard from my drill sergeants, asserting that we had it easier than they had — which I began saying myself when rumors of stress cards in Army BCT began flying less than five years later. Behaviors targeted for elimination include hazing, bullying, sexual harassment, and sexual assault – which have distinct definitions but could include overlapping components. Teasing them apart it important.
Roughly, within DoD:
- Hazing is behavior that injures personnel physically or psychologically as part of an initiation rite designed to bring someone into a group. (See the full definition on page 7 of this RAND training guide.) Examples include blood rank, branding, and forced consumption of alcohol.
- Bullying, in contrast, is an act of aggression with the intent to physically or psychologically harm that may single an individual out of a group as different or weak (definition here). Tactics may include threats, rumors, isolation, and physical, verbal, or social media attacks.
- Sexual harassment involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature involving quid pro quo or creating a hostile work environment.
- Sexual assault is defined as “intentional sexual contact characterized by the use of force, threats, intimidation, or abuse of authority when the victim does not or cannot consent;” it can include rape, aggravated or abusive sexual contact, forcible sodomy, or attempts.
Crucially, none of these are conducted for any sort of military or government purpose – this is literally spelled out in the definitions of hazing or bullying. Training activities designed to prepare for military activities are not hazing, including corrective measures or extra military instruction. “Drop and give me 20” is not hazing; forcing someone to do planks over a container of bleach (aka chlorine, aka “the gas of war crimes”) is. The same behavior may cross categories, such as this example of new troops a specialist committing sodomy with his thumb “as part of a perverse initiation ritual” – male troops are more likely to characterize their sexual assaults as hazing. In addition, bad behaviors may hang together: at both the individual and installation level, there’s a high correlation between sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military.
This last point is likely one reason some commands are cracking down on things like phallic drawings: they may seem innocuous, but sexual predators notice and take advantage of environments that don’t take low-level harassment seriously.
Personally, I agree that hazing is simply intolerable – as are bullying, harassment, and assault. Lack of clarity about what constitutes hazing could help explain why some still defend it.
When senior leaders end up getting bogged down in specifics about how high the water pressure is if sailors are getting sprayed with a hose, it’s obvious that nailing down a clear definition can get “murky” – which may be why the majority in a Navy Times survey defended some as “hijinks” that bond a command together.
"Hazing is simply intolerable – as are bullying, harassment, and assault. Lack of clarity about what constitutes hazing could help explain why some still defend it"
There don’t seem to be any broad-based surveys on whether there exists any sort of widespread support of hazing. However, an extremely small pilot study showed not only confusion about what constitutes hazing, but that a substantial percentage of participants considered minor hazing scenarios “fun.” Since the scenarios were “manipulated to be minor,” I can cling to my belief that most military personnel do not consider forcible sodomy “fun.”
Both the composition of the military and acceptable standards of behavior within it are changing. If the next generation of troops can’t get blood rank (as I voluntarily did) but is also less likely to be hazed to death, I hope we can all come to agree this is a positive change. Military leaders should clearly communicate that all these behaviors are against regulations, some are illegal, and none belong in a professional force.
Kayla Williams is Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security. She previously served as Director of the Center for Women Veterans at VA, where she focused on policies, programs, and legislation affecting women veterans. She was enlisted for five years and wrote the memoirs Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army and Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War.
An Austrian soldier was apparently killed by two military working dogs that he was charged with feeding, the Austrian Ministry of Defense announced on Thursday.
She's photographed every major war of the last 20 years. Marine Corps boot camp was something else entirely
Conflict photographer Lynsey Addario has seen a hell of a lot of combat over the past twenty years. She patrolled Afghanistan's Helmand Province with the Marines, accompanied the Army on night raids in Baghdad, took artillery fire with rebel fighters in Libya, and has taken photos in countless other wars and humanitarian disasters around the world.
Along the way, Addario captured images of plenty of women serving with pride in uniform, not only in the U.S. armed forces, but also on the battlefields of Syria, Colombia, South Sudan and Israel. Her photographs are the subject of a new article in the November 2019 special issue of National Geographic, "Women: A Century of Change," the magazine's first-ever edition written and photographed exclusively by women.
The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.
Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.
Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead
"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.
They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.
As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.
But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.
Federal court judge Reggie Walton in Washington D.C. has ruled Hoda Muthana, a young woman who left her family in Hoover, Alabama, to join ISIS, is not a U.S. citizen, her attorneys told AL.com Thursday.
The ruling means the government does not recognize her a citizen of the United States, even though she was born in the U.S.
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- The Marine Corps could train as many as eight co-ed companies at boot camp each year, and the general overseeing the effort is hitting back against those complaining that the move is lowering training standards.
"Get over it," Maj. Gen. William Mullen, the head of Training and Education Command told Military.com on Thursday. "We're still making Marines like we used to. That has not changed."
Mullen, a career infantry officer who has led troops in combat — including in Fallujah, Iraq — said Marines have likely been complaining about falling standards since 1775.
"I'm assuming that the second Marine walking into Tun Tavern was like 'You know ... our standards have gone down. They're just not the same as it they used to be,'" Mullen said, referring to the service's famous birthplace. "That has always been going on in the history of the Marine Corps."