Small Wars Journal

Hazing is Simply Intolerable

Hazing is Simply Intolerable

Army Regulation 600-20, Army Command Policy, states "hazing is fundamentally in opposition to our values and is prohibited."   The recent case of Private Danny Chen, who took his own life in Afghanistan this past October after being physically and verbally abused by up to 8 fellow members of his platoon (a platoon he had been part of for less than 70 days), has brought to the forefront the issue of hazing in the US Army.  In April Marine Lance Corporal Harry Lew committed suicide after a night of hazing by the hand of his fellow Marines, an incident resulting in a trial by court-martial of three Marines who physically abused and harassed him before he shot himself.  General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a statement on 23 December 2011 on his Facebook page stating "hazing is simply intolerable."   Indeed, hazing is intolerable and is an egregious act that violates every thread of value and decency we hold as valuable as an institution and profession.  Hazing and interpersonal abuse significantly increases the risk of suicide in those who have an acute feeling of burdensomeness and inability to assimilate or belong.  Hazing is blatantly toxic and erodes the trust and confidence required of comrades in arms whose reliance upon each other ultimately contributes to their survival in the most austere conditions.  Lastly, blaming the victim of such a crime is morally corrupt and discounts the horrible act of abuse imposed upon those who are not in the position to defend themselves.

Hazing is an inexcusable act counter to the values we hold dear as an Army.  Our values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage are the hallmarks of our institution. Conduct in direct violation with one or more of these values consume the moral bedrock of the organization. The concept of serving our country in the service of others is juxtaposed to the idea that harming one of our own somehow makes them better members of our team.  Leadership through deceit and coercion is as equally corrosive as the physical and psychological abuse of our own.  We lose our moral legitimacy passively condoning these actions in failing to address them.  Further, our inability to adhere to the values we profess to make our institution great destroy our heritage, traditions, and principles. Of paramount importance is the understanding that the violation of reasonable expectations of professional conduct and common decency contributes to the degradation of our institution.

Our rising suicide rate in the active, guard, and reserve force resultant of the increasing stresses of military life emphasize the significance of cultivating environments that do not further contribute to the preventable loss of life by our Soldiers' own hands.  Dr. Thomas Joiner's interpersonal theory of suicidal behavior indicates three prerequisites of suicidal behavior; a thwarted sense of belongingness, an increased sense of burdensomeness, and an acquired capability or means of killing.  Hazing and other abuses deteriorate one's sense of self-worth and increase the feeling of burden and worthlessness.  Hazing accelerates all three of these prerequisites, particularly in a military culture where lethal means and capability is a mechanism available to all Soldiers assigned a weapon.  Why any leader would knowingly engage in behaviors that would possibly add to our suicide issues is beyond comprehension.

The targeting, ostracizing, bullying, and humiliation of another person for the purposes of "building camaraderie" or "exercising discipline" is the weakest form of leadership and the most obvious example of toxicity. That PVT Chen's platoon leader has been charged with dereliction of duty related to the hazing and suicide of PVT Chen is even more disconcerting. Leaders are responsible for the training, morale, welfare, and discipline of their Soldiers.  When the actions of subordinates prevent a leader's ability to monitor and contribute to any of these four aspects the fabric of trust within the team and small unit disintegrate.  Leaders are supposed to know their subordinates, their families, their motivations, strengths, and weaknesses in order to facilitate their improvement and contributions towards mission accomplishment, not exploit those weaknesses or shortcomings for personal amusement or sadistic examples.  Leaders who cannot provide for the common good or who fail to recognize the worth of each of their subordinates do not deserve to lead.

Blaming victims of hazing is as reprehensible as blaming victims of rape, murder, or domestic abuse.  Hazing is an abuse of power and control manifested in the commission of a violent or coercive act of domineering others in an oppressive or vicious manner.  Private Chen didn't need to "toughen up" or "require better coping skills" as many internet commenters have suggested under news articles and blogs related to the case.  He was an American Soldier who enlisted as an infantryman during a time of war to serve the United States, a country that gave this child of hardworking Chinese immigrants a New York education and opportunity to live the American Dream.  He was a Soldier who served less than a year from enlistment to the time of his death who was forced to his breaking point by a group of fellow Soldiers who, instead of mentoring him, training him, and ensuring his development as a professional Soldier in the 70 days he was with them, decided to bully him, beat him, and harass him to a point where he believed his only logical escape was killing himself with his own weapon in a guard tower.  This Soldier deserved better, and his chain of command failed him.

Recent events in both the US Army and United States Marine Corps have brought the practice of hazing resulting in the violent death of the victim, by whatever means, to the front pages of the national news.  In the cases of both US Army Private Danny Chen and Marine Corps Lance Corporal Harry Lew hazing has been determined to be instrumental in the causation of their suspected suicides that criminal charges have been preferred on members in their chain of command. Hazing violates the principles and ethics of our military.  It openly contributes to a rising suicide rate within our armed forces, particularly the US Army.  It is a tool of abuse utilized by the ethically bankrupt and morally flexible to compensate for their inability to truly lead.  Further, it is not the fault of the victims but, rather, the conduct of the aggressors that such behaviors continue.  Our Soldiers have enough to worry about in combat while fighting violent and ruthless enemies who use deceit, tyranny, fear, and coercion to accomplish their ends.  They should not have to worry about those same tools of oppression being used by those serving to their left and right.

Ryan T. Kranc  is a major in the U.S. Army and squadron operations officer in 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Irwin, CA.  The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

Comments

johncarroll

Fri, 11/07/2014 - 11:57pm

Everything is very open with a precise explanation of the issue. It was truly informative. I Strongly agree that hazing is intolerable. How will the government and army respond in this kind of issue and what actions will take place to end this kind of abuse?

bumperplate

Sun, 01/15/2012 - 2:04pm

Hazing is counter-productive, don't think people dispute that. The problem is in defining what hazing is - and that's tough.

What confounds this issue is the subject of abuse. Harsh training and treatment can cross the line into abuse. Does abuse fall under hazing? Or does hazing fall under abuse?

When the learning stops (assuming an action is done as part of training/discipline, etc), then the it's either abuse, hazing, or just a waste of time. That's where I find it time to call index. I believe that if we all follow that rule, whether we're NCOs, officer, Plt leaders, BN Cdrs, or whatever, then we'll be ok.

cmcretusn

Sun, 01/15/2012 - 10:10am

I am so sick of politicians and political groups trying to run our military. Until a person has been in these young soldiers boots don't begin to think that you know how they should act. If you are under seige every single day and someone goes to their guard tower without a helmet or un prepared, yes, you must do something to get their attention. Most of the so called hazing occured during basic training. As far as AIT, did he even get that? Was he prepared? I would say no. What these fine young men "allegedly" did, and I say allegedly because nothing has been proven yet,is nothing that they weren't taught when they were privates. Policy's are in place for only one reason- for those in charge to say " well we have a policy". That is just a bunch of B.S. Tell me who in the military or even in the careers they have chosen haven't violated a policy?
Has anyone ever exceeded the speed limit? You violated a policy. Oh have you ever copied something from a book or magazine? You violated copyright laws.
This whole thing is political and there are 8 young men you are literally fighting for their future lives. Yes, I am sorry that the young man took his life and yes I am sorry that his family is going through this because they don't understand the whole situation. THey are only being told what the "activist lawyer" intrepets for them. Give me a frickin break. War is hell and these young men are out there laying their lives on the line every frickin day and what do they get in return? Negligent homicide charges. Supposedly, they young man reported the incidents to his chaing of command and it is said the chain of command did nothing. I find that really hard to believe. There is so much more to this story than we know.

Holy crap, if I had reported everthing up the chain of command that every Sailor that worked for me complained about that would have taken me my entire day.

I believe that these 8 young men, if they really did anything ( hey remember that innocent until proven guilty), only did what they were taught and what they thought was the Army way of handling it.

there is a term called smoking a private. For those of you who have been in the Army, you have either done it, been a part of it or received it. Right wrong or indifferent, everyone in the Army knows it happens. It is a systemic issue..

Has no one ever gone through a right of passage? Anyone ever joined a sority or joined a fraternity?

I really find it hard to believe that he was singled out because his ethnicity. Whatever allegedly happened to him, happened because of his carelessness, ineptness, and lack of skills. The Army didn't prepare this young man for combat. He was just another body to them. He was sent as a replacement. He was unprepared.

Good grief this kid was 6 foot 3. He was trained in basic hand to hand combat. If he really felt threatened he could have done something.

I am so sick of people playing the victim to get sympathy. Using their race because something allegedly happened to them that happened to everyone else. This kid was not singled out because of his race. I wonder did anyone ask any other private with any other platoon if anything like that happened to them. I would bet my retirement that they would say yes.

Any young person who really wants to serve their county--- DO NOT JOIN THE ARMY! You are nothing but fresh meat, they expect you to go kill the enemy or even become a POW but lordy don't violate any policy.

I am infuriated that these 8 young men are being charged in the death of a fellow soldier. What about those 8 young men's families? They are going through hell,finanical support and are never allowed to tell their story.

Do not allow the media to convict these men. Do not jump to conclusions. Unless you have been in combat or walked a mile in these young men's boots constantly looking out for IED's, or seen your buddy have their arms and legs blown off, or have been in a war zone every year you have been in the army, do not condem these men. They are sons, fathers, brothers, nephews or uncles. They are all American. They volunteered. They love their country.

Unless you would like to but on a helmet,kevlar and boots, you have no idea what these young people go through. I wish everyone could spend a month in a warzone and then hopefully come back and tell it like it really is.

Georgia

Wed, 01/11/2012 - 10:11am

I have read the article regarding Pvt. Chen in New York Magazine twice now. In my opinion, based on the article, Pvt. Chen should NEVER have been placed on that COP! Who takes responsibility for that? The platoon?

I am asking as a civilian, who makes the decision as to where to place these soldiers? Doesn't the Army keep something similar to a report card based on performance and perhaps placed based on that?

From the article, he was shy and timid, did not like confrontation, he says in a letter, he is the weakest soldier left in Basic. He was uncomfortable with the intensity of AIT and the normal agitation among the soldiers towards the end. He arrived at the COP physically unprepared and it was brought up, yet he was kept there. He would have been better off at KAF being a trainer.

My own son has said time and time again in frustration on guys not squared away..."What did these guys think they were signing up for? This is not a video game!" If Pvt. Chen was not squared away mentally and physically, that is not being ugly, it is just the truth and if would make life harder no matter what race, religion, ethnicity.

If anything, maybe it the Army itself that needs to look at what they are doing! There HAD to be signs at OSUT and yet he was passed along and then assigned to the MOST intense situation possible.

Eric_Strattoniii

Wed, 01/11/2012 - 9:23am

In reply to by Local Yocol

First, take this as some advice, never post at 2am in the morning, your judgement and writing ability are usually severely impaired due to alcohol at that time of the night. Have done that, just sounded silly when I did. ;)
Second, look up article 113 in the UCMJ and then take that into relation with what two of the supposed "victims" did in regard to the "hazings" they were on the receiving end of and tell me what punishment is worse.
Third, what correlation do you make between these kids hazing and then killing themselves? Just because someone gets teased or smoked does not mean there is direct cause in that link and that it will lead to their deaths.
Lastly, suicide is never just one thing nor is it easy to diagnose, even best friends do not see the signs or symptoms of someone who is going to take their life. Charging these guys with homicide in the way they are being charged is wrong and will just be another tragedy to go with these kids taking their own lives.

Local Yocol

Wed, 01/11/2012 - 3:00am

Wake up, everyone. Hazing happens openly and some units even Bragg About it. Yep, you telling me Prop Blast week is not hazing? Once again, double standard, "You ain't Airborne, you don't understand!" Next time I hear someone tell another person that, my response, "You ain't getting it, you don't understand Army Regulation 600-20." Throwing misc fluids on me and the items that accompanied the "not hazing" but "team building" was frankly, disgusting and IT IS hazing.I've done numerous events that was considered initiation, mostly fun and I agreed to those that didn't subject my group to ridicule and stupidity.

Those involved in PVT Chen's chain should be subject to UCMJ and charged with aggrevated manslaughter. The Army had a similiar incident last year with a Soldier being abused by his chain of command. They were deployed. The investigation cleared the chain of command, simply put, he died of self inflicted wound. Even though the investigation clearly pointed out that his chain of command made him do extra duty and useless pointless duty everyday to the point he went inside a port a john and blew his head off.

Once again, like anything else in the Army, the people in charge will address this and couple of weeks later we will hear nothing else of it. Just like how they dealt with Toxic Leaders, they talked about it for couple of weeks, and now that's over, back to business as usual.

Eric_Strattoniii

Mon, 01/09/2012 - 9:00am

In reply to by RTK

RTK, your attempt to frame this is racial terms is terrible and wrong in my opinion. Chen even noted in his own journal that it was kidding around, nothing hostile about it, he was running out of come backs is all he said. It says you are in a combat arms unit, exactly what do you do that you never saw constant taunts going back and forth and that spared no one's feelings? Have you ever lived on a VSO/VSP? An outpost? Constant, brutal, relentless and often can make you feel "belittled". I am at a loss with your post.

"They belittled him with racial slurs."

-We tease each others ethnic heritage all the time, it is what combat arms do, nothing is sacred. I have heard far worse comments about ones mother. Want to know why it does not really matter or should not really matter? WE ARE AMERICANS first, plain and simple. Should other insensitive comments be off limits too in the field? Is it now PC even in how we relate to each other? If I say something about a guy and it is insulting it does not mean I would not risk my life for him/her.

"and even though They forced him to do push-ups with a mouthful of water, refusing to let him swallow or spit any out:

- Gasp!!!!! The "horror".

"And, on September 27, a sergeant allegedly yanked him out of bed and dragged him across about 50 yards of gravel toward a shower trailer as punishment for supposedly breaking the hot-water pump. He endured bruises and cuts on his back."

-This might be a little much but hardly what caused the kid to kill himself. To be honest, if the kid constantly screwed up, and it sounds like he did, I am not sure this merits more than a council form on the Sgt.
Stop looking to blame the platoon for this kid killing himself. You cannot always tell the signs and symptoms of someone who will take their own life, it is never one thing that leads to that choice, yes, choice. I think it is not realistic to expect folks to spot the signs and symptoms all the time, just not.

"Army officials told Chen’s family that although the leader of his platoon found out about this incident, he never reported it as he was required to."

-This is legit but I also do not know if it is up to something being so terrible that is should be reported up the CoC? Things should always be handled at the lowest level and if one screw up happened it does not change that fact.

"Military investigators found evidence that Chen reported the Sept. 27 attack to his first lieutenant and staff sergeant and the supervisors chose not to document it, she said."-

-Legit complaint but what if they had documented it? Would it have changed the kids outcome?

"At a news conference, family members and their supporters said Private Chen had been mistreated virtually every day of his six-week stint in Afghanistan. They said he had been called a “gook,” a “chink” and “dragon lady.” He was also forced to wear a green helmet and shout orders in Chinese, to a battalion that had no other Chinese-American soldiers, they said." - New York Times, 5JAN12

-Really? So, this is what caused the kid to kill himself? I mean they are charge with his death, so how do you make the correlation?

I highly doubt these kid's were a great asset, these actions by platoon mates do not happen in a vaccum and none of the action noted so far would lead me to believe that those same actions lead to the kids death or that the people in question should be charged with homicide, either negligent or involuntary.

I know hazings can get out of hand, it is the NCOs job to know that fine line between discipline and hazing but my word RTK, you frame this is in strictly racial tones, you cry for Lew and Chen and never question their work ethic or ability, ignore Lew's dangerous habit of falling asleep in watch (Not at BAF or KAF, a real outpost) expect the NCOs and JOs to know for sure the signs and symptoms of suicide and be able to spot them all the time. You seem to advocate for a military full of boy scouts that are polite, kind and sweet to each other at all times, can see the signs and symptoms of mental health problems all the time and then I am sure you expect those same soldiers or marines to shoot someone in close quarters. It simply does not work that way.

zenwick

Fri, 02/03/2012 - 2:28pm

In reply to by Georgia

Georgia, thanks for your comments. You seem to know a whole lot about what went on in this incident.

One other item of information I'd like to add is that a journalist embedded with the Canadian unit this platoon replaced reported that 160 Canadians were being replaced by 45 US soldiers. The mission did not change. Then the 3-21 took casualties and were not reconstituted to full strength; and it appears that this replacement, in particular, was no help to them at all. My understanding is that Chen's officers were denied their request to have him transferred out.

Georgia

Sun, 01/08/2012 - 3:48pm

In reply to by Backwards Observer

I KNOW for a fact that mentoring on the COP was done. There were several that had problems adjusting...2 PTSD'd out in the first month and were taken to KAF. They kept a watchful eye on another who was having a terrible time..the entire platoon worked to help him because they NEEDED him to be a good soldier. They were so worried about him that he could NOT be left alone!!!

NOT one article is even looking at ANYTHING other than this being a racial incident!!! Everyone is going for the jugular and IF it turns out that this was not what the press is saying......these men's lives and families are ruined! TRIED by Political Activists and the OWS crowd. Not ONE person even interested in INVESTIGATING any other circumstances. The Press etc. will move on but this will effect those grunts who watched their fellow soldiers hang publically.

Backwards Observer

Sun, 01/08/2012 - 3:30pm

In reply to by Georgia

Georgia, those are some very charming and moving life moments you've chosen to share, but your comment doesn't really answer the questions. However, if what you seem to be saying is true, I'm sure Private Chen's platoon leaders did their utmost to effectively mentor him under the most difficult of circumstances.To think otherwise would be quite disturbing indeed.

Georgia

Sun, 01/08/2012 - 2:33pm

In reply to by Backwards Observer

What I am saying is that the platoon was made of up of Black, Chinese, Spanish, White, Jewish, Christian and agnostics. It was not made up of skinheads.

The comments these men make to each other are coarse, sometimes over the top and at times their humor is VERY dark, but then I am an outsider. I don't live every day with my buddies blowing up next to me. And yet I have seen these guys go from over the top comments to each other and go immediately to "I love ya, man". And what about calling eachother "My nigga" which is as common as saying "my buddy".

I may come from a different mindset then y'all. I am 48, raised with brothers, and raised 3 sons. Life was and is rough, tumble and competitive at our house. My son's were athletes through HS, their social group consisted of teammates. I lived in a very diverse area and my house was the "hang out house". I could overhear the banter that went on between ALL of them, black, white, Indian, Pakistani, Russian, Bosnian, etc...you would fall out!!!!

My youngest grew up with the nicknames "Puke", "Luggie" (which is the phlegm that you cough up). It is time we STOP with hyper sensitivity..my father was called a Polack, the Italians where I lived were called Ginnies. Being called a name is now cause for suicide?? If I had a dime for every time in my life I was called a "bitch" I'd be rich!

A parent grieving will ALWAYS look for answers....I can't imagine anything worse!!! 2 beloved soldiers from this unit were killed 3 days apart by IED's...do they blame the platoon for placing them in those situations that day? Another soldier I know, drew straws with his BEST friend for patrol, both were exhausted and they only needed one guy,his friend lost and did the patrol, he was only days from going home and was killed by a sniper....Do you not think that everyday his parents live with the what if?

Backwards Observer

Sun, 01/08/2012 - 1:09pm

In reply to by Georgia

Georgia, thanks for your reply. So you're telling me that everything Chen's parents are saying can safely be discounted then? Also that there were emphatically no racially motivated instances of excessive harassment involved in the hazing, and that his suicide was solely the result of a pre-existing condition? God Bless you for your honesty.

Georgia

Sun, 01/08/2012 - 12:27pm

In reply to by Backwards Observer

It may sound harsh to you but yes, I do blame the one who committed suicide.
My own mother in law committed suicide over a pending separation and divorce. It was discussed and my father in law took his son's for the weekend fishing..while they were gone, a neighbor walking his dog heard a car running in the garage....she was dead. A good friend of mine just lost her 18 yr. old niece to suicide...she had just had a baby, she was living with her parents, seemed very happy...no signs whatsoever. 2 yrs ago my son's best friend found his dad with his head blown off in the tool shed...he has just completed cancer treatment and was finally home with his family. Who is to blame in these situations?

FACT-Pvt. Chen was NOT the only Chinese-American in the platoon.

FACT-They were NOT at Palace with the Batallion, their was room for ONE platoon and that was it.

FACT-He did pull lots of guard duty because by the time he was brought in as a replacement more than 20 of the original platoon were WIA to IED's and OFF of the COP completely. These 20 soldiers were not replaced with another 20. The Platoon was running missions at HALF strength and combining squads to complete their daily missions.

FACT-There were Soldiers that would absolutely freak out at the thought of being sent to Palace....yes, some even cried and thought of it as a punishment due to the amount of contact this platoon took daily.

FACT-No internet, no phone

FACT-Port-a-potty...the showers were makeshift and the water was trucked in and arrived in a tank filled with live parasites that could be seen swimming....the shower was used extremely sparingly because of the amount of bleach that was needed to control the parasites. IF you wanted a shower, it was up to YOU to go to the main tank and fill the smaller tank for your PERSONAL use.

FACT-The AO that C Company was operating in were the recipients of more Purple Hearts than the rest of the Brigade combined and that is not to forget the several KIA's, and this was less than 5 mos. into the deployment.

Backwards Observer

Sun, 01/08/2012 - 2:06am

In reply to by Georgia

<em>What is being reported in the news and via your links are NOT facts!</em>

Georgia, you stated in your initial post that his platoon had nothing to do with any of it. Okay, so what are the facts? So far, all you seem to be suggesting is that nobody is to blame except the dead guy, and that his parents are probably just making shit up.

Georgia

Sun, 01/08/2012 - 1:10am

In reply to by RTK

What is being reported in the news and via your links are NOT facts! They are conjecture and IF the CID is telling the parents this information BEFORE the investigation is complete, I find that disturbing.

RTK

Sat, 01/07/2012 - 10:19am

In reply to by Georgia

Ma'am,

These were things done to him by his platoon. They were outlined quite clearly on Thursday at a press conference. While he was teased during OSUT, the sadistic treatment by his platoon is almost unbelievable. I don't know a parent who wouldn't be outraged if this was done to their child.

"The eight men later charged in connection with his death are all white and range in age from 24 to 35; they include one lieutenant, two staff sergeants, three sergeants, and two specialists. Members of this group allegedly harassed and humiliated Chen from almost the day he arrived at The Palace. They belittled him with racial slurs. They forced him to do push-ups with a mouthful of water, refusing to let him swallow or spit any out. And, on September 27, a sergeant allegedly yanked him out of bed and dragged him across about 50 yards of gravel toward a shower trailer as punishment for supposedly breaking the hot-water pump. He endured bruises and cuts on his back. Army officials told Chen’s family that although the leader of his platoon found out about this incident, he never reported it as he was required to." New York Magazine, 6JAN12

http://nymag.com/news/features/danny-chen-2012-1/

"The abuse was the culmination of months of humiliation, including a Sept. 27 incident in which Chen was pulled out of his bed by a sergeant and dragged over 15 meters of gravel to the shower, resulting in cuts and bruises to his back, OuYang said.
Military investigators found evidence that Chen reported the Sept. 27 attack to his first lieutenant and staff sergeant and the supervisors chose not to document it, she said.
Chen also was kneed in the legs by fellow soldiers and subjected to excessive work detail and guard duty, advocates said." - DNAinfo.com, 5JAN12

http://www.dnainfo.com/20120105/greenwich-village-soho/army-pvt-danny-c…

"At a news conference, family members and their supporters said Private Chen had been mistreated virtually every day of his six-week stint in Afghanistan. They said he had been called a “gook,” a “chink” and “dragon lady.” He was also forced to wear a green helmet and shout orders in Chinese, to a battalion that had no other Chinese-American soldiers, they said." - New York Times, 5JAN12

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/nyregion/pvt-chens-family-learns-more…

I fail to see how any of this would have made PVT Chen a better Soldier.

Can anyone here say definitively that they would be able to judge a person's demeanor after knowing them only a around 5 weeks? Pvt. Chen did not deploy with this platoon, he was a replacement. His family is bringing up charges that supposedly occurred during OSUT at Fort Benning...this platoon had nothing to do with that.

Georgia

Sun, 01/08/2012 - 1:45pm

In reply to by RTK

My son did NTC at Fort Irwin, the vast majority of soldiers that train are excellent, but even during my son's training while there, there were soldiers who could not cut it and were carried by the rest of the platoon.

I will never forget my son coming home from Ft. Irwin for predeployment leave and talking of having to ruck up a mountain...my son was given the SAW, so on top of carrying it and ammo, one of his platoon mates could not make the ruck...he had to carry this soldiers weapon and ammo as well while he pushed him up the steep moutain. As he was nearing the top he could hear the Sgt. yelling his name wanting to know WHERE he was with the SAW..it was as he crested the top that they could see how he had to push the other soldier UP the mountain....the behavior from this soldier was not isolated, it was the norm. His battle buddies could not understand how he made it through basic!

Again, my middle son just graduated "low stress" OSUT...required 8hrs. a night sleep. Medical profiles for sore feet. If you were sick you did not have to attend FTX and then they drove those soldiers up to Honor Hill to receive their Cross Rifles and then they were driven back down. And I will tell you, while it was not a huge deal, that kind of treatment DOES breed resentment...I don't care if it is in a military situation, sports team, work environment, etc.

I personally could not believe the amount of soldiers that could NOT pass PT by Black Phase!!! Many of them recycled from the class before. Almost 20 soldiers could not pass PT, days before Graduation????

Lets make everyone "feel" good about themselves does not build a person, it gives a person a false sense of accomplishment. When the rubber meets the road what happens then?

Being in the Infantry is not like MW3 or MOH video games. While my son did learn while at Fort Irwin and appreciated the experience, the real thing was unimaginable....nobody can prepare for it. Some can keep going, others find themselves in a world of shit. I would much rather have my son's prepared for the shit storm both mentally and physically..once you are in it there is no turning back.

Eric_Strattoniii

Fri, 01/06/2012 - 3:15pm

In reply to by Georgia

Georgia, it is refreshing to see a mother who wants her kid prepared as best he can for combat verse the easy out our own leadership seems to take at times. Thank you.

carl

Fri, 01/06/2012 - 3:02pm

In reply to by Georgia

Georgia:

Glad to see to see you around here. We need more people who aren't male and more people who are civilians (I am guessing you are a civilian). Please stick around.

Georgia

Fri, 01/06/2012 - 12:47pm

In reply to by Eric_Strattoniii

I am a mother with 2 sons in the Army, both infantry and I have to agree with you. I would like to relate something that was quite alarming to me. My middle son was part of an Experimental OSUT training that was "Low Stress". He had said that playing HS football was more mentally and physically challenging. You were allowed to sick call for anything including your feet hurting and it in no way effected your status. The difference experience between both of my sons training was quite obvious.

I will also say this..the reason why people are successful at suicide is that a lot of the time there are NO real outward signs. Look at Tony Dungy's son...we don't know what goes on their heads.

Eric_Strattoniii

Thu, 01/05/2012 - 11:26am

In reply to by Ken White

Ken,
The reactions of the mid-field grade officers is on this blog, on another blog, in the papers, etc....that is where I get that from.
As for the JAG, they will push charges as soon as you choose to go to Court Martial. I have seen JAG do it repeatedly and there is always the catch all "Conduct Unbecoming" that they throw on the list of charges. If it was not for Military Juries I am sure we would have several more mis-carriages of justice in the Military System and I fear this case may turn into one. It is not the JAG Corps fault, it is kind of their job, the COs are usually the ones who push it and once a kid is in a certain position and asks for Court Martial it takes on its own motion.
Politics? I think everyone, to include myself, understands that they influence everything but I think we can minimize that effect in our institutions, politics are influencing this case even. We are an insular institution and I believe that we can in fact improve our situation by being a little more transparent, selling our ideas to the public and if need be have a few leaders willing to fall on their sword. We make our own reality by avoiding the tough choices, by not attempting to improve our situations or by coming up with PC platitudes to fix problems that go deeper than "self-esteem". That is what I mean when we make our own reality, it is up to us as NCOs and Officer to implement better PME in tactics, leadership, etc...and up to the senior Officer Corps to become less Risk Averse and stop thinking in terms of zero defects. The things we do need to be about improving our various institutions and not just in how we look, it has to be how we perform. As someone said on here, it is about the unit first is it not?

Ken White

Thu, 01/05/2012 - 1:18am

In reply to by Eric_Strattoniii

Eric:

I'm unsure what you mean about the choices in this situation and the reaction of mid grade and field grade officers. You must have a lot more information about both cases than I've seen.<blockquote>"My point was that I do not think that the hazing is what caused these kids to kill themselves and that the charges against the troops who were with them are way over board."</blockquote>You may be right. I do not know enough to say that. I have been around enough to say that usually there's a precipitating event in suicides. What that was in either of these cases I know not. I have enough experience with the UCMJ and the system to know that JAGs will rarely allow charges to get to Court Martial level unless they have a pretty solid case; lawyers do not like to lose. The JAGs, not the chain, really make the call to charge.

I can't say that hazing caused either suicide, wasn't there. I can say that I have seen that happen and I can say that while a little smoking of slackers is okay, an excess is just flat wrong -- and it's up to the NCOs to insure that the troops don't go overboard with peer pressure. Which is basically what most all of us on this thread, you included, have written or implied in one way or another.

I and a lot of others including a lot of those mid and field grades and even the FlagOs share your concern that our standards need to be raised and our training needs an order of magnitude improvement. As I told Carl not long ago on another but similar subject, "you aren't the only one that ever thought that..." A lot of us have. A lot of us who've worked at trying to get those changes also know that thinking it is one thing and actually getting it done is a whole lot harder. Nobody, after all, really sets out to be mediocre or a poor performer. So while I agree that should happen, I do not agree that we self limit purposely -- it's a whole lot more complex than that and there are a lot of systemic blocks. For just one example, funding for the Navy/MC and for the Army are handled in very different ways by Congress for legal (and political) reasons and thus Congress has a lot of strings they can pull to get compliance with their wishes. Those wishes rarely accord with with any military rationale...

That's why I have written that politics enter into that complexity and difficulty to achieve changes. I did not mean to imply that there were politics involved in either of those suicide cases because I do not know that to be so and I'm not about to make that charge without more solid info. Politics exist on a national and macro level; that's one thing and it is or should be well known. Actions within groups or units have political (different type) overtones in many cases but unless one is actually in the unit, talk about what goes or went on is usually just speculation. Public speculation that is erroneous can tar folks that may be innocent -- or let slide some who may not be innocent. I try to avoid it unless I've got solid facts and some reasonably good evidence but that's just me.

You mention below that you're direct, nothing wrong with that. You also note that this isn't the best communication medium around, True dat. One just has to be careful not to drift into blanket absolutes and let directness overpower the lack of nuance and expression. We all have to work at it and it ain't easy... ;)

Take care...

Eric_Strattoniii

Wed, 01/04/2012 - 10:48pm

In reply to by Ken White

Ken, I just don't think that we can expect the guys to know all the signs and symptoms of a guy who will most likely kill himself. Some sharp guys can pick it up but I do not expect the average guy to be able to do that. My point was that I do not think that the hazing is what caused these kids to kill themselves and that the charges against the troops who were with them are way over board. I base this on what I have read and know of the cases and what I know of people who commit suicide.

The CoC did fail in not seeing the signs but I do not think it helps matters to then charge those same guys with homicide, it is just another poor example of leadership not doing it's job when that happens. They are looking at this from a political stand point, that is reality, as you have said before. The reality should be that it's two guys and all we can do is learn from it, try to prevent it in the future and move on. I worry about the military too, the choices in this situation and the reaction by many mid-grade and field grade officers also concerns me.

Ken White

Wed, 01/04/2012 - 5:01pm

In reply to by Eric_Strattoniii

<blockquote>"The CoC failed in that no one saw that these kids obviously had issues leading up to them taking their own lives, attempting to blame the guys that were with them for those deaths is not just over reach it is piling on with the previous examples of poor leadership."</blockquote>You made that last statement so you may have more information than I do, you obviously believe it or you wouldn't have written it. I sure don't know enough to make that statement. However, as you also wrote, the Chain of Command failed, unquestionably -- the argument seems to be about where in the Chain that failure occurred. To me, some responsibility HAS to be on that first line honcho; Team Leader -- and His Squad Leader. Then the Plat Daddy and only after that the LT and Co Cdr. I Can't go much further than that probability on the information I have...

As one of them old Airborne types and a guy that helped stand up and train SEAL Team 2 down at Fort Stewart back in 1963, I'm not ready to die over today's military (ALL of it Army, Navy, Corps, Air Farce and the Coasties) but I am worried about 'em all. Just a little, no tooth gnashing or sleepless nights. For all the flaws in the system, the kids make it work

Eric_Strattoniii

Wed, 01/04/2012 - 3:34pm

In reply to by RTK

"As the author I want to be clear on a few issues.
Promoting the Army values, a set of ideals we profess to every cadet and recruit in the earliest stages of precommissioning and basic training, is not merely "towing the company line." It's a reminder of the value set we are supposed to use to guide our conduct. Call it naive, some of us still believe they have validity."

They are great values to have but they are not real, they are invented to placate the politicians and make it look like the GOs are "doing something" to improve professionalism. They are on PPTs and Posters, they are akin to saying "I am a Warrior", doesn't make you one just because you say you are one. Go around whatever base you are on and see how much "false moto" is there and tell me that it is not platitudes. The current Army thrives on them. Don't fret though, I am sure it will change again, depends on what marketing line you end up using. Did the Beret help you guys much as far as professionalism?

"As for Eric Stratton's belief that the Army doesn't have high training standards outside of Special Operations - your perception is your reality, but it doesn't make you right. Each month a brigade worth of Army Soldiers, with the addition of SOF from all branches, converge on the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert to hone their skill. And it's hard training that replicates current tactics, techniques, and procedures downrange in a very difficult environment. Every platoon and above conducts after action reviews with an observer/controller team assigned to them. Not only do you see each unit rise to the challenge, you see good units turn great. From the Opposing Force perspective, the Troopers assigned to 11th ACR must be at the top of their game every month for every unit to give them the qualitative training environment they deserve."-

I have been through several of your training courses, trained your guys and yes, your training is canned, your time on the range is usually canned, etc...your infantryman are training on one weapon when they should be training on all small arms, why am I teaching a guy with 8 years in how to properly shoot a pistol? Your tactics for urban/cqc have been outdated for years and you still refuse to adopt new ones or even use your SOF units to improve them, you did not even adopt TCCC till 2004' (it's been around since the late 90's) and your MEDEVAC/CASEVAC, well, I got to experience them up close and personal recently and have been working with them since 2004'. They remain so risk averse that they should be called "Lifeflight" and not have Combat anywhere near their name. So, yeah, I am going to say your training standards are not high nor is your selection which is what I was mostly talking about-Airborne, Air Assault, Boot, Etc...Don't worry, it is in the other branches too, you are not alone. It all goes back to being risk adverse and poor leadership, they know if they actually instituted higher standards for selection they would get heat when people did not make the cut. They know that if they instituted higher standards for training that someone would get hurt and they would get heat. It is what it is, saying it is not like that is being either in denial, you are attempting to look good on here for a peer or superior or you are just not paying attention. I have seen some great individuals "get around" this by having civilian companies come in or making drug deals with SFGs but they are not the norm.

"qualitative training environment"- Ha! Do you really wonder why I think you guys all drink the Kool Aid and I make fun of your communication styles.

"We have a fundamental disagreement on the status of the Army and the Soldiers that are in it. I've read your comments on Tom Ricks' blog long enough to know there's no way I'm going to change your mind or convince you that you're wrong, even if you are."-

Change my mind? Actually, people do it all the time, Kaykuri, Ty, JPWREL, RVN and even Hunter now and then (but rarely). I want the Army to be better. It is not my branch but it is my Army and they are American kids, I care greatly that these young troops are prepared for battle, they are not from what I have seen. You can look at your support troops to see an even worse version of preparing kids for combat if you would like. Your ancestors who may have been in the Airborne or other units in WWII would die all over again if they saw todays military.

"There is nothing careerist about standing up for what is right. You might be the first person to ever accuse me of that."-

Somehow I doubt that, especially after seeing the way you write an article like that, it screams company line, uses "Military Speak" in it's language and to me it smacks of company line in it's tone, message and delivery.

"Finally, there's a big difference between telling a kid to get a box of grid squares and throwing rocks at him for leaving a hot water heater on. You make this sound like a grey issue, and that conditions outside of your paradigm mean the military is turning soft. I maintain there are still element of ethics that are still black and white and that the compromise of morals, ethics, and integrity deteriorates the overall institution."-

One, I mostly spoke of Lew and as I pointed out you left tidbits of information that may have informed people a little better, facts like he fell asleep on watch in a combat zone repeatedly. As for Chen, if you think they were doing a public stoning then I would agree with you but I do not think that is what I read. I also think the current definition of hazing is so far reaching that ANYTHING is off limits and I am sure in your mind it should be that way. The CoC failed in that no one saw that these kids obviously had issues leading up to them taking their own lives, attempting to blame the guys that were with them for those deaths is not just over reach it is piling on with the previous examples of poor leadership.

As the author I want to be clear on a few issues.

Promoting the Army values, a set of ideals we profess to every cadet and recruit in the earliest stages of precommissioning and basic training, is not merely "towing the company line." It's a reminder of the value set we are supposed to use to guide our conduct. Call it naive, some of us still believe they have validity.

As for Eric Stratton's belief that the Army doesn't have high training standards outside of Special Operations - your perception is your reality, but it doesn't make you right. Each month a brigade worth of Army Soldiers, with the addition of SOF from all branches, converge on the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert to hone their skill. And it's hard training that replicates current tactics, techniques, and procedures downrange in a very difficult environment. Every platoon and above conducts after action reviews with an observer/controller team assigned to them. Not only do you see each unit rise to the challenge, you see good units turn great. From the Opposing Force perspective, the Troopers assigned to 11th ACR must be at the top of their game every month for every unit to give them the qualitative training environment they deserve.

We have a fundamental disagreement on the status of the Army and the Soldiers that are in it. I've read your comments on Tom Ricks' blog long enough to know there's no way I'm going to change your mind or convince you that you're wrong, even if you are.

There is nothing careerist about standing up for what is right. You might be the first person to ever accuse me of that.

Finally, there's a big difference between telling a kid to get a box of grid squares and throwing rocks at him for leaving a hot water heater on. You make this sound like a grey issue, and that conditions outside of your paradigm mean the military is turning soft. I maintain there are still element of ethics that are still black and white and that the compromise of morals, ethics, and integrity deteriorates the overall institution.

carl

Thu, 01/05/2012 - 2:27pm

In reply to by Eric_Strattoniii

Care to provide an alternate definition?

Eric_Strattoniii

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 11:06pm

In reply to by carl

Carl, I think in most things we might agree but on this, "any physical, psychological, or mental procedure that humiliates, insults, tortures or injures a cadet and does not serve the direct purpose of modern military training." we do not. It is far too vague and way to easy to have anything called "hazing". The US trains it's people to softly to begin with, this hardly helps I believe.

carl

Thu, 01/05/2012 - 3:03pm

In reply to by InTheKnow

InTheKnow:

We have preserved hazing in the past, just check the history of West Point.

Don't confuse coming of age rituals practiced by primitive cultures, or graduation cerrimonies (sic) with the hazing per the definition I provided. The hazing we are talking about right now is a product of young unsupervised or poorly supervised males. Young males given a free hand will come up with the most savage notions and feel good about it. (William Golding wrote a book about that.) Older people and mixed sex groups don't engage in boyish nonsense because they have had a chance to grow up. We don't see hazing when a new member of the Supreme Court is appointed.

The definition specifically excludes training that has a military purpose. Those are training injuries and deaths, not hazing injuries and deaths. There is a difference between what happened to the two men in question and broken legs or death due to a double malfunction in parachute training.

Hazing is cowardly on its' face. Go up to an acquaintance or man on the street and tell him to give you 100 and see what happens to you. Go up to the same guy with 10 of your friends holding baseball bats and glaring and watch how quick he does them. It basically can't be engaged in by individuals of equal standing. It depends upon backup of authority or numbers. It is cowardly.

I've read the "hazing makes a man out of you" argument before and reject it. It is rather more likely that upbringing, innate character, strong leadership and cohesive units enable people to survive combat and being a POW.

Plenty of people may attribute their success to military academy experiences but plenty of people of the past attributed their success to good medicine. The one has as much to do with the other in my view. If military academy experience and hazing is beneficial there should be a measurable difference in the effectiveness of academy grads and everybody else, especially in the last several decades. Is there?

Hazing by its' nature WILL be taken to extremes and used for the wrong purposes. It always has. That is the big objection to it.

zacchaeus

Wed, 01/04/2012 - 4:17am

In reply to by InTheKnow

In 1997 I checked into a new duty station. The emphasis on core values was pervasive. Field Grade Officers would randomly spot check the Company Grade Officers to see if our wallets contained two valuable pieces of kit – the core values card and Operational Risk Management matrix card. This was considered quality leadership at the time.

Admittedly, I am not up to speed on the best small unit leadership practices of the FMF but I understand the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program provides an effective, controlled team building/character developing/leadership tool. I’m sure the PC police would consider the House of Pain a form of hazing as well… Perhaps we are destined to resurrect the 1st Earth Battalion???

Ken White

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 11:16pm

In reply to by InTheKnow

In the know:<blockquote>"I would favor leaders ensuring that any "procedures" are done for the right reasons and that subordinates are counseled as to what is not acceptable. I would encourage talking about signs that one isn't getting anything positive out of a hazing..."</blockquote>Absolutely. Those are the key issues; guidance followed by oversight / monitoring of the change -- if the change is positive what is being done is not hazing; if it is negative it is and must be stopped quickly. The first line supervisor is the person who has the responsibility to closely control what happens and to inform the next link in the chain what's up; his or her Boss has to watch and keep the process honest.<blockquote>"...Get soldiers to talk about what they feel when they are being hazed or are hazing."</blockquote>Mmm. I read you but I'd urge caution on that. You have to know your people; some will literally die before they'll 'rat' or whine; others will squeal like stuck pigs if you just glare at them. That's why the first line supervisor is so important -- and no LT is a first line supervisor...<blockquote>"If we just make it verboten, then it will still go on, but go more underground, possibly get more sadistic and extreme, and most of the policies will revolve around CYA. When something bad happens, the unfortunate commander who may have known nothing about it- will get axed and everyone will breath a sigh of relief it wasn't them."</blockquote>Very true on all counts. It has before been verboten and to an extent is now. This means it is not as transparent in implementation as it should be (except in good units -- and there are some...). As you write, the unfortunate's in the chain who were not aware get zapped -- and that hurts the unit. Everyone just has to remember that any such action has to be for the good of the unit -- if it is just intended to be bad for an individual, the wrong motivation is in play.

We unfortunately picked up a lot of our habits from the British and German Armies -- they do the harsh discipline and 'corrective training' thing. Unfortunately, we over the years have picked up many of their bad and too few of their good traits. They have many, both Armies produce more competent soldiers and officers after initial training than do we.

I've often wondered what would've happened had Von Steuben, the poseur, not appeared and had Daniel Morgan who did not like the British Army been supreme honcho in lieu of G. Washington who merely wanted to be better than than the British by out-britting them...

We might have adopted the Iroquois / Haudenosaunee method of training fighters by mentoring instead of by harassing...

Didn't happen. So we have to do the best we can with what we have. Hazing isn't the best way to do anything, combat like pressures and mild peer pressure properly watched aren't hazing and the key, once again, is the good of the unit, not the detriment of the individual and that line is really generally pretty easy to identify. People know when they're screwing up...

(Most people -- those that do not or do not care have no place in anyone's armed force, they're far more dangerous than slackers...)

InTheKnow

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 10:33pm

In reply to by carl

Carl:

I don't think we've ever "preserved" hazing in the past. Hazing seems to have emerged in almost every activity, group and culture that I know of in order to serve some informal purposes that all of our pre-engineered civilized advancements couldn't seem to provide for us. Instead of preserving it- I think we should not pretend that fighting it will make it go away or that it is all bad- but instead be less righteous about it and talk about why it seems to always exist and perhaps entertain the notion it could serve us in some manner or form. I'm afraid if we just demonize it all it will drive it underground more and most higher-ups will just resort to CYA.

The problem I have with that definition is that:

1) During most martial activities, formal or informal, every now and then injuries will occur. People will feel insulted- and perhaps even humiliated.
2) I find it hard to assume that all hazing is abuse by superiors or groups or is cowardly. I know plenty of people who attribute their military academy experiences- to include, but not limited to, hazing (it wasn't 4 years of hazing, but started with hazing and ended with a positive acceptance and reward)- to surviving combat and POW experiences. I have seen where it built stronger teams.

I imagine, like most things, it can be taken to an extreme or used for the wrong purposes. But I can't imagine the benefit to outlawing it all together. I would favor leaders ensuring that any "procedures" are done for the right reasons and that subordinates are counseled as to what is not acceptable. I would encourage talking about signs that one isn't getting anything positive out of a hazing. Get soldiers to talk about what they feel when they are being hazed or are hazing.

If we just make it verboten, then it will still go on, but go more underground, possibly get more sadistic and extreme, and most of the policies will revolve around CYA. When something bad happens, the unfortunate commander who may have known nothing about it- will get axed and everyone will breath a sigh of relief it wasn't them.

carl

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 10:24pm

In reply to by InTheKnow

InTheKnow:

The crux of your positions seems to be this "So, to wrap-up- the loss of one soldier to suicide-...-becomes so intolerable that we would rather do away with portions of our martial culture."

As I said before, I think a good definition of hazing is as follows '"Hazing in a military academy is any physical, psychological, or mental procedure that humiliates, insults, tortures or injures a cadet and does not serve the direct purpose of modern military training." Change cadet for soldier and academy for unit and you have a pretty fair definition.'

Now with that definition in mind, do you think hazing is a portion of our military culture worth preserving? I think, using that definition, hazing is simple abuse of subordinates by superiors or of an individual by a group, superiors who are using their badge of authority to hide behind and groups using their numbers to cover themselves. That is not a portion of military culture to be preserved because it is largely cowardly.

Eric_Strattoniii

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 9:30pm

In reply to by InTheKnow

Wow, between you and Ken I do not think I have liked or agreed with so many posts before in my life! Seriously, great post especially on point was this line "I mean- come on- we even have to remind ourselves we are warriors, for goodness sakes!" Classic, true and sad all in one sentence.

Eric_Strattoniii

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 9:30pm

In reply to by InTheKnow

Wow, between you and Ken I do not think I have liked or agreed with so many posts before in my life! Seriously, great post especially on point was this line "I mean- come on- we even have to remind ourselves we are warriors, for goodness sakes!" Classic, true and sad all in one sentence.

InTheKnow

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 9:14pm

Eric- that is why I post anonymously on a few subjects: 1) females in the military, 2) homosexuals in the military, 3) anything that is the latest knee-jerk flavor of the month (suicide, hazing, etc.), 4) Army and national policy, 5) religion. Unfortunately for our institution, giving an honest opinion about some or all of those things can get one in trouble. Call it PC, call it something else- but, I have heard that officers used to publish anonymously in the Infantry Journal going way back, so I don't feel like much has changed...

I agree with some of your comments- the Army values, for instance: although laudatory, it always makes me sick to hear them talked about by senior leadership- it always comes across to me as if they mean that only NCOs should follow the values- especially the ones about respect and selfless service. I don't know how many activities I've been to wherein a senior officer treats someone with disrespect while talking about the Army values! The message to me is embarrassing: "you NCOs sacrifice everything, we officers will pretend..." So, although I think the NCO corps has some issues- I personally think the Army is great BECAUSE of its NCO corps and IN SPITE of its officers (at least above the rank of CPT...). And, yes- I am above the rank of CPT...

As you can see by Carl's response to my post- for many people anything that leads to suicide today- or is thought to (or is tied to any other high-profile issue), is condemned in the most vehement way. Although hazing- as defined broadly by the regulation- is used by every culture, unit and group I've experienced, it is still vilified by today's elite because it is prone to the one thing their increasingly engineered utopian dream cannot stand: risk. Because hazing is prone to getting out of control if not seriously monitored and can lead to serious reprecussions, hazing has become like riding a bike without a helmet. I think BG Kelly was commenting on the same concept in his Fighting Small Wars article when he noted:

<em>The notion of individual negation is an absurdity in
a market state that exists to create opportunity for
individuals. As a result, in modern war, the death
of a soldier is accepted as an unquestioned national
tragedy. Furthermore, the West no longer views war as
a wholly legitimate means of advancing the interests
of a state or group of states...
...It is interesting that, at least according to The Guardian,
the notion that, whatever its causes, aims or outcomes, war is
morally wrong is a given. ...
...Even if we accept The Guardian’s view as unconsidered
and faintly risible, we should also accept that the
underlying sentiment exists and that in the view of a
substantial portion of our population war is morally,
at least, tainted.</em>

<em>In combination, these two factors mean that the
basic mechanism of warfare; combat, is discredited.
The moral taint reduces the tolerance that the
community, local and international, has for the death
and destruction that is an inevitable corollary of
combat and constrains the choice of available means
—the current trend of demonising air power being
one example. The community is equally reluctant
either to see its sons die or to employ the weapons
that minimise the chances of this occurring. The
inability to resolve this dilemma means that instead
of being the principal means to an end, and at least
in contemporary Western theory, combat is reduced to
being an undesirable externality of warfare."</em>

I think the same factors are at work here. Today the loss of one soldier to suicide is a tragedy and the fundamental means with which to build a strong military unit and institution- a focus on what is best for the whole (as opposed to the individual)- is viewed by many as morally wrong- but, similar to Kelly's comment on war- we should at least accept that that underlying sentiment exists and that in the view of a substantial portion of our population the military is morally, at least, tainted (and thus, if allowed to exist, at least should be undermined by forcing it to shift to a focus on individual rights). And much like combat being discredited, informal means of team-building and selection are discredited. But it goes beyond just hazing- the "moral taint" against traditional martial culture "reduces the tolerance that the community, local and international, has for the death and" accidents (think of all the restrictions on live-fires and other risky training) "that are an inevitable corollary of" realistic preparations for combat and constrains the choice of available means —the current trend of demonising normal male social behavior being just one example.

To further use BG Kelly's example to explain our current problems: "The community is equally reluctant either to see its sons die" (or be abused) or to sanction the martial culture of the warrior that inevitably entails risk, negative 2nd and 3rd order effects, the denial of some group's ability to serve (due to issues with cohesion, physical ability, physiology, group behavior, etc.) that minimize the chances of death occuring (and/or minimize effectiveness in combat). "The inability to resolve this dilemma means that instead of being the principal means to an end" the military (read: traditional warrior and martial culture) is reduced to being an undesirable externality of warfare." I mean- come on- we even have to remind ourselves we are warriors, for goodness sakes!

So, to wrap-up- the loss of one soldier to suicide- who, in most cases I'd argue has more problems than just something that hazing supposedly triggers- becomes so intolerable that we would rather do away with portions of our martial culture. This is repeatedly seen in other areas: policies of micromanagement, risk-aversion, politically-correct briefings to CYA top leaders and commanders instead of honest discussions about perceptions and underlying issues, refusing to buck the system and conventional wisdom, etc. But, like BG Kelly- I think this is just a reflection of our society, wherein all things martial, traditionally male, and "Western" cultural have been demonized for some time now.

Eric_Strattoniii

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 9:27pm

In reply to by Ken White

Great post, could not agree with you more, especially the last line, it really is in all of our branches and our government. I think IntheKnow has a great post that goes with your points as well. The NCO Corps has especially failed in my opinion, I see so many embrace the false "moto" it hurts. Kool Aid is a non-discriminatory drink that cares little about rank unfortunately.

Ken White

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 7:12pm

In reply to by Eric_Strattoniii

You're absolutely right on the foolishness of 'Army Core Values' and all that other BS. Also on the constant changes that blow with the winds from DC. Been a bane for the US Armed Forces for a long time and the Army is regrettably more plastic than most on that stuff.

You and Move Forward are also right in that there is a place for pressure to be applied that can be thought hazing by some. No question. I will point out I've never seen a Pushup clean a weapon or improve a CQB run. ;)

The key though is that NCOs apply that pressure for the good of the unit first, then that or those individual(s). If they allow the Troops to impose a little peer pressure, that's fine -- it just has to be watched. The real issue isn't that guy or gal or a group, it's the unit and its ability to function and that means doing what needs to be done but not getting or allowing excessive BS because, using the Lew case as an example, there are a number of people who are no longer in that unit due to what happened and that is an indicator, almost always, of some screwups...

As for Lew, don't know, wasn't there. Doubt any commenting here were. He may have have had his own problems and we likely don't really know enough to comment other than generally. What I do know is that, Marine and Army, SOF and not, taking care of and training the Troops is an NCO job. If there's a problem similar to the Lew case as it appears from the news, then some NCOs almost certainly screwed the pooch. The command may be fouled up -- lot of 'em in all services are -- but everyone who's ever been an NCO has had to deal with that.

All that said, you're right about the Army being broken. Unfortunately it's not alone, it's all through DoD and your Congress is responsible for much of that. Congress and the society that is America today. Both insist on that touchy feely stuff. Stupid but it ain't going away, it has to be dealt with...

Eric_Strattoniii

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 6:00pm

In reply to by carl

Carl,
I am right and those things are little more than platitudes that the military talks about but never actually does and it is the fault of the professional military, 100% the fault of that group. You talk of failure at the NCO level, you are right but I would look to the unbelievable failure at the 06 and above level for why policy is terrible as well as the institution itself. Lots of PC, lots of Double standards and little raising of standards at the recruitment level, at the leadership training or any training for that matter. Who do you think comes up with those silly PPTs or Online Courses that people do and usually only for a check in the box or to CYA? Not the NCO Corps. Most of what has been written in this article and on many of these posts is straight Kool Aid. I am starting to think you guys get monitored on here. See that Kool Aid Speak all the time, to this day every time I deploy it is like a cancer and that is in a combat area. It is almost Orwellian. I am sure somewhere, someone is working right now on a new mantra that will be on a poster in every gym and barracks hall, can't wait to see that, they are always truly inspiring. ;)
As for Lew, have you read the UCMJ? Not shedding a tear for Lew, sorry. I'll ask it again, how many tears would you have shed for the guys deaths he may have caused by falling asleep REPEATEDLY on watch in a combat zone? He got extra pt and some taunts thrown at him by his fellow Marines and you think that is worse than what he is punishable under the UCMJ for what he did? Or that they (the Marines) somehow caused him to take his life? He took his own life, if you really think something was not there prior to that then you are very mistaken. If harsh words, taunts and a little extra PT for being a screw up were all it took for someone to kill themselves we would be losing whole battalions every day.
As for "Frat Boy Pranks", some work to bond guys and keep some guys in line, that is simple fact, it works. It is our fault, especially at the NCO level that we have allowed some cases to get out of hand and hence ANYTHING that smacks of being "mean", "offensive", "harsh" is considered hazing now. It is part of the reason that Army Boot Camp is such a joke as is Airborne School, again, our fault. We did not police ourselves and are paying the price for it. The Navy used to have fun initiations that were mostly about drinking and bringing a guy into a group-Shell Back, Blue Nose, etc...Punching small Airborne wings or a SEAL Trident, a Marine Scuba Pin or Army Tab into someones shoulder or chest were hardly life threatening and the intent was to make the guy feel welcome to the group, you may not like that but "single men in barracks don't grow into plaster saints". I am sure the day will come though when even Kipling will be banned since he is far to offensive. ;)

carl

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 5:33pm

In reply to by Eric_Strattoniii

Well let's see, you view loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage as platitudes. And a platitude is a flat, dull or trite remark. I'd say you are right, the military is very broken if a serving member of said military can view the listed qualities as platitudes. That is only a tiny bit of a shot against you (mostly because I'm a smart-aleck and can't resist), It is really a shot against the military as an institution. Your opinion, that the military talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk, is I'm sure a common one. It is common because it is true. Why aren't high training standards the norm in the military? They should be. That they aren't is the fault of the professional military establishment.

In your second paragraph, you are again right. There was something wrong with Pvt Chen and Lance Corporal Lew. They were in situations they couldn't handle. And again you are right, no one noticed. That speaks to the point Ken made below, lousy small unit leadership, especially NCO leadership; another indication that there is something broke, bad broke, at least with those units.

Tell me, what would you have done with Lance Corporal Lew? His SGT handed off the responsibility to the other Lance Corporals and the treatment he got resulted in his dying. You say he warranted harsher treatment. It is hard to beat death for harsh.

I was wrong and you are right about high training standards not being enough to make good soldier. I should have added it takes good leaders, units with some personnel stability, units that train together, high standards of recruitment, realistic training and all the other things I've read about in books. One thing it doesn't require is frat boy high jinks in the name of "bonding".

Eric_Strattoniii

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 3:52pm

You guys are simply singing the Company Line and drinking the Company Kool Aid-
"Hazing is an inexcusable act counter to the values we hold dear as an Army. Our values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage are the hallmarks of our institution." Care to add a few more to that long list of platitudes that I see on posters a lot but rarely buried into folks minds unless it via a BS Power Point designed to check off a box or CYA on something. The other comments about this being against the Army Core values, that somehow high training standards are enough to make good soldiers makes me cringe. I challenge you to show me these "high" training standards the Army has outside of the SOF areas? Core Values? You guys change them every recruiting campaign, stop acting like you guys are attempting to develop a sense of tradition when you change it every couple of years depending on who your advertiser is or who your GO is that needs to look good for Congress. The Army is broken as an institution and has been for a while, fix it then talk about the other things.

As for the Hazing, both the kids obviously had something wrong with them and it was more than being taunted and or physically taxed. That was the main failure here, that no one noticed that the kids were obviously depressed and do not think it was just those "hazing" incidents that did it, they were obviously in a bad place prior to that.
One more point, you mention the USMC and Lew, the kid feel asleep in a combat zone while on watch, something that requires a bit harsher treatment than what he got and he did so repeatedly, so while you weep for the young man as do I for taking his own life, how much would you (who are obviously career oriented officers) cry for the guys who could have died due to him falling asleep while on watch? Honestly, SWJ looses more and more status with me every time I see tripe like this pass as an "article".

Eric_Strattoniii

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 9:28pm

In reply to by carl

I knew it! Darn O's! ;)

carl

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 7:25pm

In reply to by Eric_Strattoniii

Eric: Your answer about what you would have done is what I would expect from a guy who knows what he is about. The thing that strikes me about your second paragraph was that you would likely have taken the responsibility to do something rather than passing it off.

Hazing, as defined per the definition I provided, doesn't work at making good soldiers. It might establish a tentative identification with another as between gang bangers, but it doesn't make good soldiers. And the big trouble with it is, as Ken notes below, it can get out of hand fast if it isn't stifled fast. You admit that. Humans will always be humans so best you don't depend on them to limit abuse at a "reasonable" level. They won't. Best prohibit as best you can, abuse even at small levels.

So that you may satisfy your curiosity, I was an O-4F, as in "Oh him-he's not eligible for anything."

Eric_Strattoniii

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 6:48pm

In reply to by carl

Carl,
Sorry, did not see this reply, I seem to be pretty lost on where they show up at times. As for what I would do, I simply don't know, I was not there so I cannot assume to know everything that NCO did at the time, what his thinking as to how this would help the kid straighten up or if it was out of malice, I just don't know. I am always pretty loathe to Monday Morning QB a case like that, the USMC usually has a pretty high caliber of grunt NCO. So, maybe the NCO could not spare to let the guy go back to the main FOB due to no replacements, maybe the NCO wanted the kid to succeed in the long run and thought his peers might be a better judgement on him, I just do not know.

I will venture to say I might have been harsher if I could than the Marine NCO, if the kid had repeatedly fallen asleep on watch while we were in an isolated VSO or FOB, at the very least I would have had the kid up on charges if he did it REPEATEDLY, he would have paper on him and as soon as I could I would get him the heck out of my AO. I am not that NCO though, I do not know what resources he had or what his exact situation was, I know from having deployed multiple times to that country that only a few things are black and white.

As for the bonding thing, yeah, it does work, have seen it and lived it. It works, all the Policy put out and all the Speeches about people being "horrified" or "upset" or whatever does not change that fact. The problem is that humans are doing it and they can get out of hand at times. The hazing did not cause these kids to kill themselves, it certainly did not help but harsh words and some harsh PT do not a suicide make. These kids were, I imagine at least, giving off warning signs of something being wrong early and it was not recognized. Even the Army kid knew the taunts were said in a "jokingly" manner, a quote. How PC are we to get? It has already had a terrible effect on your Army Basic and so called "selection" schools like Airborne, Air Assault, etc...how weak and PC do we want to make training?

carl

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 6:19pm

In reply to by Eric_Strattoniii

Eric: I will agree with almost every word of your first paragraph.

Don't dodge the question Eric. I asked what would you have done with a situation like that of Lance Corporal Lew. You didn't answer. You responded with, more or less, "it was his own fault." What one of his SGTs did was pass the buck and the Lance Corporal Lew is dead. What would you have done?

Frat boy pranks don't work. They are tolerated because young men without adult supervision don't know any better. It is entertaining to young meatheads and some of them are smart enough to throw in some BS about bonding to muddy the waters. Sticking pins into another man's chest is neither here nor there. It is a silly thing that appeals to young meatheads. What matters is the training and obstacles overcome to get those various badges. Feeling that sticking pins into people is as important as the training to get there is juvenile.

Eric_Strattoniii

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 5:57pm

In reply to by InTheKnow

Carl,
I am right and those things are little more than platitudes that the military talks about but never actually does and it is the fault of the professional military, 100% the fault of that group. You talk of failure at the NCO level, you are right but I would look to the unbelievable failure at the 06 and above level for why policy is terrible as well as the institution itself. Lots of PC, lots of Double standards and little raising of standards at the recruitment level, at the leadership training or any training for that matter. Who do you think comes up with those silly PPTs or Online Courses that people do and usually only for a check in the box or to CYA? Not the NCO Corps. Most of what has been written in this article and on many of these posts is straight Kool Aid. I am starting to think you guys get monitored on here. See that Kool Aid Speak all the time, to this day every time I deploy it is like a cancer and that is in a combat area. It is almost Orwellian. I am sure somewhere, someone is working right now on a new mantra that will be on a poster in every gym and barracks hall, can't wait to see that, they are always truly inspiring. ;)

As for Lew, have you read the UCMJ? Not shedding a tear for Lew, sorry. I'll ask it again, how many tears would you have shed for the guys deaths he may have caused by falling asleep REPEATEDLY on watch in a combat zone? He got extra pt and some taunts thrown at him by his fellow Marines and you think that is worse than what he is punishable under the UCMJ for what he did? Or that they (the Marines) somehow caused him to take his life? He took his own life, if you really think something was not there prior to that then you are very mistaken. If harsh words, taunts and a little extra PT for being a screw up were all it took for someone to kill themselves we would be losing whole battalions every day.

As for "Frat Boy Pranks", some work to bond guys and keep some guys in line, that is simple fact, it works. It is our fault, especially at the NCO level that we have allowed some cases to get out of hand and hence ANYTHING that smacks of being "mean", "offensive", "harsh" is considered hazing now. It is part of the reason that Army Boot Camp is such a joke as is Airborne School, again, our fault. We did not police ourselves and are paying the price for it. The Navy used to have fun initiations that were mostly about drinking and bringing a guy into a group-Shell Back, Blue Nose, etc...Punching small Airborne wings or a SEAL Trident, a Marine Scuba Pin or Army Tab into someones shoulder or chest were hardly life threatening and the intent was to make the guy feel welcome to the group, you may not like that but "single men in barracks don't grow into plaster saints". I am sure the day will come though when even Kipling will be banned since he is far to offensive. ;)

Eric_Strattoniii

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 6:27pm

In reply to by carl

Mike, I get it but I have been following this Blog for a while and I feel like I am not seeing that much that I would not see in most professional military journals or other military journals. They seem to mostly tow the company line if they are Active Duty guys and girls, comments are different and I do not assume anything about you but it is often not hard to tell a persons background just by their posts as in the case of Carl, I might be wrong though.

I think "we", as you used the term (the NCO Corps) have had a failure in leadership on this issue and in these cases in particular, I just do not think ALL hazing is bad nor do I think the author makes a compelling case that ALL hazing is bad. I do think that the amount of platitudes, and you know that is what they are, used makes me cringe a bit though and I think it goes to part of the problem we have in the military today.

Have a problem? Make up a creed, poster or something else with a cool saying on it. I think we all know it just doesn't work like that, putting those same things into what is supposed to be a professional article does not inspire confidence in the authors points.

When you combine those types of solutions such as saying "cool" things or looking good in uniform with berets, pins, etc...instead of with real solutions we set ourselves up for failure. It's the old "looking good verse being good" and it seems we want to look good more than anything else. You place this mindset with what I see as poor training at the tactical level, poor training at the leadership level (we follow the business model far to much) and a lack of moral courage at the top echelons of our leadership then you have serious problems in the institutions. All those problems then flow down to the lower levels. What's the saying? A Fish rots from the head?