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New order presses commanders to prevent, track abusive behavior

Jul. 22, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
The Marine Corps has updated its anti-hazing order to reflect the commandant's emphasis on holding commanders accountable for misdeeds within their units and to satisfy congressional demands that the military begin tracking incidents of excessive discipline and other abusive behavior.
The Marine Corps has updated its anti-hazing order to reflect the commandant's emphasis on holding commanders accountable for misdeeds within their units and to satisfy congressional demands that the military begin tracking incidents of excessive discipline and other abusive behavior. (Staff)
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The Marine Corps has updated its anti-hazing order to reflect the commandant’s emphasis on holding commanders accountable for misdeeds within their units and to satisfy congressional demands that the military begin tracking incidents of excessive discipline and other abusive behavior.

Also, while the revisions make clear that administrative corrective measures are not considered hazing, there are now well-defined limits on officers’ and noncommissioned officers’ ability to implement what’s known as “Extra Military Instruction,” or EMI, a tool at their disposal when a Marine in their charge is not meeting their duties.

The changes were approved by Commandant Gen. Jim Amos in May and announced to the force July 18 via Marine administrative message 359/13. What Marines need to know:

Commanders’ requirements. The revised order highlights the need for leaders to not only investigate hazing allegations and punish Marines when appropriate but to prevent such practices altogether. Hazing prevention, it says, is as an integral part of a command’s climate and a “function of leadership.”

New Corps-wide command climate surveys unveiled in July were designed to help new commanders assess the baseline health of their units and identify any existing problems, such as hazing. Leaders are expected to improve problem areas within one year of the survey’s completion or face scrutiny from their superior officer.

Amos’ wording in the revised order makes clear that hazing is a commander’s responsibility to sort out. That means if a command climate survey indicates a problem, or if someone in their unit reports an incident, the leadership must address it, and the next survey needs to reflect improvement.

This order expands the tools leaders have at their disposal to address hazing. It singles out equal opportunity advisers, staff judge advocates, chaplains, victims advocates and mental health providers.

By putting greater onus on commanders, the commandant is staying consistent with his message of late that the leadership bears responsibility for everything that happens — or fails to happen — within their units. Since March, at least eight officers have been removed from their jobs, many as a result of missteps by others within their commands.

Tracking complaints. The Corps’ new tracking system will cover all hazing allegations from “cradle to grave” — that is, from the time a complaint is made through its investigation and resolution. Commanders will be required to document allegations; the Corps will be required to aggregate them.

These reports will become part of the Discrimination and Sexual Harassment, or DASH, system, a database that tracks the status of such cases. Amos designated Manpower and Reserve Affairs in Quantico, Va., as the repository for reported hazing cases.

By collecting this information in a database, the Corps should be able to provide a substantiated update the next time Congress asks about the service’s progress toward addressing the issue.

For that system to run appropriately, there are several new requirements for commanders. At some steps in the process, for instance, commanders have just hours to submit incident reports. Here’s how it will work:

■ First, commanders must submit a voice report to the Marine Corps Operation Center upon knowledge of any hazing incident.

■ They then have six hours from the time they receive any information of alleged hazing to submit a written report to the Operation Center.

■ Within 72 hours of learning about the hazing incident, commanders must coordinate with the appropriate commanding general’s equal opportunity office. They’ll be required to submit a DASH report to that office within three days.

■ All updates to the case, to include investigation results, nonjudicial punishment, forwarding of charges or final disposition, must be submitted via additional DASH reports at every step within 72 hours of that development.

The information tracked in the DASH database includes the date an incident was reported and when it occurred, plus the ranks, gender, race, commands and military occupation specialties for accused and accuser. Commands are instructed to maintain the investigative references for two years.

Extra Military Instruction. The revised order dedicates considerable attention to EMI, indicating this was a gray area for Marines unclear as to what actions constitute hazing.

The Corps’ Training and Education Command defines EMI as “a non-punitive corrective measure used primarily to correct the behavior of a Marine who is deficient in their military duties.” It’s an authorized training device meant to improve efficiency of a command or unit; it’s meant to educate, not humiliate, TECOM’s website states.

But as Amos pointed out during his Corpswide Heritage Brief last year, the notion of hazing can be subjective.

“To one person,” he told Marines gathered at Marine Barracks Washington, “a definition of hazing is somebody else’s jackassery, and someone’s jackassery is another person’s assault.”

The revised order states: “Properly administered EMI ... is not hazing. It provides a tool for small unit leaders to increase proficiency of the unit or individuals in assigned duties.” That might mean making a tardy Marine arrive at work early the next day to write an essay about the importance of punctuality, as EMI is meant to retrain someone in the area they’re deficient.

But EMI can get complicated quickly because it’s subjective by nature. For example, if someone is late for physical training, some Marines might consider extra PT a fair action to correct the deficiency. Others might see that as a form of abuse, sparking questions about incentive PT, which entails exercise as a form of discipline.

That’s a practice, the hazing order makes clear, approved only at the Marine Corps’ recruit depots. And even there, there are tight restrictions for drill instructors using the tool to include time limitations and types of exercises they can order a recruit to perform.

The revised order offers Marines the strict guidelines under which EMI can be conducted. Anything outside of the stated limitations could constitute hazing, it warns. Those limitations include:

■ EMI must not be conducted for more than two hours per day.

■ If conducted outside the normal workday, it should occur directly before or after that Marine’s workday.

■ It should only take as long as necessary to correct the program deficiency for which EMI was assigned.

■ It should not be conducted on the member’s Sabbath.

■ EMI will not be used to deprive normal liberty to which the Marine is entitled.

■ The Marine issuing EMI must have authority to do so. And the authority to assign EMI may be withdrawn by any superior.

■ A commanding officer or officer-in-charge must authorize a Marine to assign EMI after normal working hours.

Why now

Last year, senior military leaders faced tough questions from members of Congress about how they would tackle hazing in the ranks. Lawmakers wanted to know not only what they were doing to get rid of the problem, but what they were doing to track allegations made by service members.

Those questions came after a congresswoman’s Marine nephew, Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, killed himself in Afghanistan following hours of alleged abuse by his fellow Marines, who were angry with him for falling asleep multiple times while he was on watch. Lew’s aunt, Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., fought to have specific anti-hazing provisions added to the 2013 defense authorization bill, to include requirements on how the services would better track the problem.

It’s a contentious issue for many Marines, who say part of the problem is that hazing can take so many forms, making it difficult to recognize a clear line between discipline and abuse — especially when they are trying to get their Marines to understand and follow the rules.

This marks the second time Amos has updated the Corps’ anti-hazing order. He did so early last year, in the wake of Lew’s death and ahead of his meeting with Congress. But he soon realized the revisions did not go far enough.

These latest updates aim to provide clear guidelines on what is and is not OK and makes clear that it becomes every Marine’s responsibility to ensure that it doesn’t occur in any form or at any level.

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