The Struggle: Hazing in the Military

The Struggle: Hazing in the Military

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Words by Wes O’Donnell

House Rep. Judy Chu petitioned House defense leaders Tuesday to have anti-hazing initiatives be included in the upcoming defense authorization bill debate, according to reports by Military Times.

In this photo taken July 20, 2011, Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. At a House Armed Services hearing on military suicides Friday, Sept. 9, 2011, Chu testified, and in a dramatic moment described the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, 21, who put a gun to his head and killed himself while in a foxhole in Afghanistan after fellow Marines allegedly hazed him one night. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
In this photo taken July 20, 2011, Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. At a House Armed Services hearing on military suicides Friday, Sept. 9, 2011, Chu testified, and in a dramatic moment described the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, 21, who put a gun to his head and killed himself while in a foxhole in Afghanistan after fellow Marines allegedly hazed him one night. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

Chu personally experienced the affect hazing incidents can have on service members when her nephew committed suicide five years ago in Afghanistan following a hazing episode he endured by fellow Marines.  She has stated that leaders have not put enough effort into controlling these situations even though Congress has been addressing the issue for years.

Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, Chu’s nephew, took his life following a hazing session where he was required to perform tasks over and over again dressed in full battle gear while being kicked and taunted by fellow Marines.  He received this “punishment” after being given repeated warnings for falling asleep while on watch.  Three of the Marines involved were charged with abusing and humiliating Lew.  One Marine served a month in prison in relation to the incident.

Lance Cpl Lew

Recently released reports from a Government Accountability Office has reaffirmed her position that more needs to be done concerning this issue.  The reports showed poor oversight and enforcement of initiatives and disorganized data on the frequency of hazing crimes in the military.

Chu stated to the members of the House Armed Services Committee “Today we have an independent analysis that found that the Defense Department’s anti-hazing policies are not being implemented, training is unclear and tracking systems are highly divergent and underdeveloped.  DoD is not aware to the extent of which hazing policies have been implemented.”

To make improvements in the area of hazing acts, Chu has asked that annual reports on policy implementation are submitted, commanders receive improved anti-hazing training and a more organized data collection plan is put in place to allow Congress to determine if the actions taken are working.  If her efforts are successful and the suggestions are implemented in the bill, it will be the fifth consecutive year that the House panel will have addressed anti-hazing policies.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, along with the other service chiefs, answer questions about the ongoing and future impacts of sequestration on the Department of Defense during a House Armed Services Committee hearing, Sept. 18, 2013, Washington, D.C. Among other concerns, Welsh emphasized the danger of having to choose between a ready force today, or a modern force tomorrow.

Since reports of Chu’s nephew were made public five years ago, the DoD has been having a difficult time resolving the hazing incidents in the military.  The Government Accountability Office reports referred to the training tactics currently in place as “too broad and watered-down to be effective.”

Chu makes reference to other stories she has been made aware of where horrible acts of hazing have led to the suicide of other service members.  She said “Only when we have these changes in place can we truly begin to eliminate hazing in the military.”

The House is currently in the process of drafting the annual defense authorization bill with the hopes of completing it by early spring.

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