Hazing, Incentive PT and political correctness -WTF


Verified Military
Dec 17, 2007
I think this sums a lot of what has been discussed in a lot of threads. A junior infantry Marine, has unsat performance, gets transfered and after a firefight in his new unit, sleeps while on guard. This happens three times in total. He gets incentive PT, maybe some sand in the face (!) from junior leaders and then takes own life.

His aunt is a Congresswoman and raises hell. And from that moment onwards everything gets thrown in the mix, by the media: the SS logo used by scout-snipers, the idiots taking video while urinating on dead opponents, etc. although one has not got much to do with the other (except maybe a lack of supervision)

I can understand issues about lack of leadership, like how come no SNCO or Officer was informed about a Marine consistently sleeping while on watch duty. What I dont understand is the whole issue with soft hazing and even "Incentive PT", and the "politically correct" verbailsation.

In this article you can also find the notion that people can be hazed without understanding that they are being hazed!!!

WTF when I was getting hazed or doing PT for punishment, it didnt take a rocket scientist to understand what it was!!! It was sometimes demeaning, it hurt and most times you new WHY you were getting it.

Dont get me wrong, things like pulling garbage duty everytime, not getting leave you deserve for months, (and I mean staying in barracks) cause someone doesnt like your face, or making love to a broom in front of a whole platoon, (things that used to happen) is not my idea of "corrective action" but I think that what this article describes is really going too far in the other direction.

In-article bold by me.


Commandant orders Marines to stop demeaning each other

By James K. Sanborn


Lance Cpl. Harry Lew has been dead nearly a year, but his suicide last April in Afghanistan is driving monumental change in the Marine Corps and, possibly, beyond.

As criminal trials have played out for the three Marines accused of assaulting Lew before he shot himself, the commandant has quietly signed and published Marine Corps Order 1700.28A, a six-page revision to the service’s 15-yearold hazing policy. In it, Gen. Jim Amos spells out new enforcement guidelines, expands the definition of what the Corps considers hazing and initiates new protections for victims and whistleblowers.

The timing is no coincidence. Media coverage of the legal process has been extensive, casting bright light on a prohibited form of hazing known as incentive physical training. Moreover, Amos’ new policy comes as prominent lawmakers, including Lew’s aunt, Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., have called on the Defense Department to quantify how widespread the problem is in the services. The House Armed Services Committee has signaled its intent to hold a hearing in late March that will examine the issue and what the brass is doing to stop it.

Attempts to interview the commandant were unsuccessful and his spokesman, Lt. Col. Joseph Plenzler, declined to answer questions about the new policy. But his intent in rewriting the Corps’ policy is laid out plainly in an accompanying message to Marines. Hazing, he wrote, “destroys our Marines’ confidence and trust in their fellow Marines and in unit leadership, thus undermining unit cohesion and combat readiness. It does not promote loyalty, does not build esprit de corps, and does not prepare Marines for combat.” Here’s how the policy affects you:

New enforcement guidelines. Amos has called on commanders to take a hard line on hazing. Each unit must have a clear local policy statement that is discussed at leadership training, and all allegations must be thoroughly investigated, according to the policy. “Violators [will be] subjected to appropriate action, in order to ultimately prevent acts of hazing and ensure all Marines are treated with dignity and respect,” it says.

The revised order also creates new reporting requirements in which substantiated incidents will be reported directly to the commandant as part of a new effort to track the problem, which heretofore has not been done.

Further, the policy creates accountability for commanders and others who catch wind of an incident and don’t act to report or investigate it. “No commander or individuals in supervisory positions may, by act, word, deed, or omission, condone or ignore hazing if they know or reasonably should have known that hazing may or did occur,” it says. “… Every service member has the responsibility to make the appropriate authorities aware of each violation of this policy.”

Broader definitions. New language in the policy makes clear that any act considered “demeaning” or “harmful” qualifies as hazing. Amos isn’t targeting violence alone but any jackass, juvenile behavior that could embarrass the institution. Examples of banned practices include: striking, piercing skin, verbally berating, encouraging another to consume alcohol in excess, branding, taping, tattooing, shaving, greasing and painting.

The policy also notes that hazing can occur not only between a superior and subordinate, but also between peers or even a subordinate and superior. And implied or actual consent does not make perpetrators any less culpable, it says.

More protection for victims. The new order provides more resources and protection for hazing victims and witnesses. Once an investigation is launched, victims and witnesses must be apprised of their rights and offered immediate legal advice. When necessary, medical assistance and counseling will be made available.

Additionally, commanders now must monitor victims and alleged perpetrators for “stress reactions,” according to the policy. “Extreme caution and sensitivity must be exercised throughout,” it says, “… to minimize re-victimization of victims.” The order also calls for investigators to “focus on the system which allowed the victim to be hazed and the surrounding organizational climate with a view to determine how to change or improve the environment, thus preventing further hazing incidents.”

Will things really change?

Fostering an environment where reporting is encouraged or rewarded, coupled with swift and consistent punishment, are important steps toward curbing incidents of hazing, said Dr. Susan Lipkins, a psychologist who specializes in the study of violence and hazing within large institutions. But eliminating it altogether will require a huge cultural shift for the service, and a new order from the commandant isn’t enough, she said.

“Changing a culture is very difficult, and changing the hazing culture is even more difficult because part of hazing is a code of silence, and cracking that code of silence is no easy feat.” In the Corps, the problem originates at boot camp, Lipkins said. There, Marines are ordered to do pushups, or to run or march, as corrective actions. Incentive PT is viewed as appropriate in that environment, where drill instructors are revered (if somewhat feared), but the practice is strictly forbidden in the fleet.

“That is a great example of how authorities are undermining themselves by actually teaching the newbie how to behave, and then they themselves expect to haze others when they are put in that position of power,” she said.

Marine officials disagree. They say the rules governing the use of incentive PT are clear: Only trained DIs at boot camp can order incentive PT, and even then, only under strict guidelines, said 1st Lt. Scott Villiard, a spokesman for Training and Education Command, which oversees recruit training.

DIs, Villiard said, carry cards outlining what type of punishment they are permitted to mete out, and for how long. And after the Crucible, a 54-hour test at boot camp’s culmination, physical punishment is over, he said.

But flipping the switch isn’t that easy, Lipkins argues.

“What comes around goes around,” she said. “You are a victim, you come in, you get hazed. Then you become a bystander, you watch others get hazed. And then eventually, when you have power, you haze others. You feel like you have the right and the duty to do unto others what was done to you. So if it is allowed in boot camp, they are setting themselves up. They are giving covert permission to continue that kind of behavior.” Amos’ policy revision does not order new training or education. Officials said current programs address the issue adequately. Recruits and officer candidates learn the rules early on, Villiard said, and they receive annual refreshers “with no waivers or exceptions accepted” once they enter the fleet.

“Junior leaders,” Villiard said, “are specifically charged and required to reinforce to their subordinate Marines the Marine Corps’ policy on hazing.” The three courts-martial connected to the Lew case have taken place as the Corps was forced to address two other scandals involving poor judgement and inappropriate behavior by Marines — a viral web video that shows Marines appearing to desecrate Taliban corpses, and the dissemination photos that show Marines posing in front of a flag bearing a Nazi-era “SS” symbol. As a result, senior leaders have assessed the type and amount of ethics instruction Marines receive, said Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Corps’ assistant commandant.

“We’re actually pretty satisfied with the amount and type of ethical training that is taking place,” Dunford told Marine Corps Times. “What we’re going to do — which is what we always do — is we’re going to go back and re-emphasize the role of strategic corporals and make sure that all of our Marines know the consequences of their actions, both with regard to accomplishing the mission as well as impact on the credibility and the reputation of the institution.” The commandant, he said, is encouraging leaders across the force to “do a little bit of introspection, to make sure we’re being the institution that we advertise we’re supposed to be.” “What the commandant is really focused on,” Dunford said, “is ensuring that we have decisive, engaged leadership across the Marine Corps. His guidance to the force has been to ensure we’re keeping our honor clean, that we’re acting in an ethical and legal way, and to be honest with you, that’s not anything new that we’re looking for the institution to do. He has just re-emphasized those things that are really core values.”

Hazing vs. character building

Hazing — and incentive PT, in particular — is a polarizing issue among Marines. While most condemn hazing as damaging to morale, unit cohesion and combat readiness, others see incentive PT as an effective means to promote order and discipline. The Lew case has fueled that argument.

Staff Sgt. Mike Perrault, a supply Marine based at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Japan, says hazing and incentive PT are not one and the same. Violence is a nogo, he said, but extra PT fills a legitimate purpose.

“While hazing certainly deserves no place in our Corps,” Perrault said, “incentive training has always been considered a useful tool for our NCOs to utilize in order to enforce good order and discipline at the lowest levels of leadership. In other words, it served as an alternative to nonjudicial punishment, or a time-consuming paper trail. … By taking it away, we have taken away an important tool in small unit leadership.” Others agree. Sgt. Joshua Gambill, a reservist assigned to the Inspector and Instructor staff at 4th Reconnaissance Battalion in San Antonio, says for minor infractions a four-mile run is a more effective punishment than paperwork. After all, Gambill said, if it is OK for his 4-year-old’s softball coach to make kids run the bases when they mess up, why shouldn’t a Marine leader be cleared to make his subordinates run when they mess up?

Banning incentive PT scuttles the careers of many young Marines by putting on paper minor infractions that could be corrected with a run or some pushups, said Sgt. Nicholas Roberts, who is assigned to U.S. Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany.
“There was a time when we had the chance to completely atone for our misdeeds. We were given a choice between the pen and the sword,” he said.

But today, leaders can only correct a Marine with paperwork that will follow them for the rest of their career, he said. A companylevel nonjudicial punishment or even a Page 11 entry can spell trouble down the road, even after a Marine straightens up.

“When discipline is applied correctly, it fixes problems, makes examples and reinforces to junior Marines that their chain of command sees them as redeemable,” he said.

Lipkins said the debate over what is and isn’t hazing derives from a lack of understanding. Many people, when asked if they were hazed, will say no, she said. When asked in detail, however, they will say they have been paddled, or made to drink large amounts of liquid, or ordered to endure physical strain — but still don’t think they have been hazed.

A lance corporal’s legacy

At the time of his death, Lew had been in Afghanistan’s Helmand province for several months, serving in Nawa district as an 0311 rifleman with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii. He was transferred to Patrol Base Gowragi on March 19 as the result of his poor performance, according to a military investigation into his death. During his first day at Gowragi, Lew’s new squad was in a firefight. Later that night Marines found him asleep while standing watch.

That happened at least three more times over the next two weeks, according to the investigation. In an attempt to correct his behavior, fellow Marines in his unit forced him to dig a fighting hole, exercise while wearing his helmet and body armor, and assaulted him, investigators found. On April 3, while crouching in his fighting hole with his M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, Lew shot himself. Scrawled on his arm was a note saying, “May hate me now, but in the long run this was the right choice. I’m sorry my mom deserves the truth.” The final court-martial in Lew’s case is underway in Hawaii. Lance Cpl. Carlos Orozco III is being tried on charges including assault, humiliation, and cruelty and maltreatment. Orozco is accused of ordering Lew to do pushups and side planks, and pouring sand into his face.

As of press time, the jury was deliberating and had not reached a verdict.

The first Marine to face trial in the case, Lance Cpl. Jacob Jacoby, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and demoted to private first class after pleading guilty to assault —

not hazing — in late January.

Their immediate superior, Sgt. Benjamin Johns was found not guilty Feb. 9 of charges he humiliated and demeaned Lew. Prosecutors argued that Johns hazed Lew by forcing the junior Marine to dig a fighting hole deep enough so he could stand up and stay awake. Johns’ attorney countered by saying the fighting hole was needed to protect the base and that the squad leader was at first unaware of how squad mates were disciplining Lew. A guilty verdict, Johns later said, would have paralyzed the NCOs who lead Marines in combat.

“It forces a squad leader to do nothing for fear of going to trial,” he said.

Chu, the congresswoman, has been outraged by the outcome of these cases so far. The verdict in Johns’ case is evidence, she said, of how deeply engrained hazing is in the military culture.

“All the pronouncements made by the military officials that hazing is officially prohibited are empty words,” she said in a statement. “The real message from these two verdicts is that the Marines will let violent assaults continue unabated against troops who are supposed to be fighting on the same side.”