Hazing in the U.S. Armed Forces: Recommendations for Hazing Prevention Policy and Practice

Hazing in the U.S. Armed Forces: Recommendations for Hazing Prevention Policy and Practice

Hazing in the U.S. Armed Forces: Recommendations for Hazing Prevention Policy and Practice

Hazing in the U.S. Armed Forces: Recommendations for Hazing Prevention Policy and Practice

Synopsis

Initiation activities have long been part of U.S. military culture as a way to mark significant transitions, status changes, and group membership. However, along with these activities have often come acts of hazing, in which individuals were subjected to abusive and harmful treatment that went beyond sanctioned ceremonies. In recent years, extreme cases of alleged hazing have led to the high-profile deaths of several service members, resulting in renewed interest from the public and Congress in seeing these hazing rituals eliminated from military culture. The Department of Defense (DoD) asked RAND to examine and provide recommendations on current hazing policy and practices across the services. To do so, the researchers examined current DoD and service-specific policy, practices, and data collection related to hazing; reviewed the scientific literature and interviewed leading experts in the field; and reviewed existing DoD incident tracking databases. This report addresses ways to improve the armed forces' definition of hazing, the effects of and motivations for hazing, how the armed forces can prevent and respond to hazing, and how the armed forces can improve the tracking of hazing incidents.

Excerpt

Initiation activities have long been part of U.S. military culture as a way to mark significant transitions, status changes, and group membership. However, along with these activities have also come acts of hazing in which individuals are subjected to abusive and harmful treatment that goes beyond sanctioned ceremonies (Nuwer, 2004). These acts of hazing have ranged from initiation rituals into a new rank, such as “blood pinning” (i.e., pins on the insignia are driven into the flesh of the person being promoted), to tests of newcomers’ commitment to the group through extended verbal and physical abuse. In recent years, more extreme cases of alleged hazing have led to the deaths of several service members, resulting in renewed interest from the public and Congress in eliminating these hazing rituals from military culture. To this end, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) required an initial report from each of the service secretaries to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees in 2013 regarding each service’s efforts to address hazing.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has noted that hazing is unacceptable in the military services. In 1997, the Secretary of Defense provided the following statement on how hazing should be treated in the services:

Treating each other with dignity and respect is essential to morale,
operational readiness, and mission accomplishment. Hazing is
contrary to these goals. Hazing must not be allowed to occur;
and when it does, action should be prompt and effective—not

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