Navy Continues Effort to Combat Hazing Among Sailors

Story Number: NNS140322-02Release Date: 3/22/2014 12:45:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Hawaii

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- Military customs and traditions are an integral part of the Navy and for the Sailors that serve today. As part of the Navy's efforts to ensure a safe, professional working environment Sailors need to understand the distinction between honorable, traditional ceremonies and actions that go too far.

According to Rear Adm. Tony Kurta, Director, Military Personnel Plans and Policy, hazing is considered to have occurred when a Sailor is exposed to cruel, abusive, humiliating, oppressive, demeaning, or harmful activities by another Sailor or group of Sailors. Hazing can be physical, verbal, or psychological in nature and is contrary to the Navy's core values of honor, courage, and commitment.

Fire Controlman 1st Class Jacob Terry, stationed aboard the Pearl Harbor-based guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) explained how hazing has the potential to essentially weaken the Navy.

"Hazing degrades operational readiness," said Terry. "If Sailors are being hazed they do not fill comfortable in a workspace, they are unable to operate at the conditions they normally would."

"I think hazing has been significantly reduced, a lot of the things that have been set in place have made it to where it's not an everyday occurrence. Clearly defining traditions is important. 'Tacking on crows' used to come from everyone stitching in and it turned into where people would pound them in. 'Stitching on crows' or 'tacking on crows' is a great tradition, but then it became more than was originally intended. So clearly defining what the traditions are and how they should be carried out is key," said Terry.

According to Lt. Cmdr. Ron Hatt, assigned to Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC) N70, the distinctions between naval traditions of the past and the core values of today's Navy are important to maintain.

"Hazing has a severe, detrimental impact on combat readiness and operational readiness. It can have significant impact on how we get the job done," said Hatt. "Traditions don't demean, and that's the key. Traditions are there to make you feel good about service. Tradition may be a reading of a passage from a historical event during submarine qualifications whereas hazing at the same event may include tacking on the dolphins, for example, it may not be perceived as demeaning, but it may be hurtful and cause pain. It also establishes aggressiveness over an individual."

Hatt emphasized the importance of including Sailors of every rank in the efforts to effectively combat hazing.

"The only way I see hazing to be eliminated is through deckplate leadership. We have to continue to have a stance that we have as an organization that demeaning and hurtful activities are eliminated from our force through petty officers second classes and petty officers first classes as well as chiefs not accepting that type of behavior," said Hatt.

"For those who are subjected to hazing, it takes away from the hard work that they do, specifically in the submarine force, and depending on the extent of the hazing, it can take that individual out from doing his or her duties. It has impact on whether or not they enjoy their service to their country. As for persons initiating the hazing, the negative impact is the wrong spirit of service. Service to our country is honor, tradition. A person who acts on hazing brings dishonor to that service," added Hatt.

The Navy Office of Hazing Prevention is adding information about hazing incidents to a database, a standalone online web-based program that tracks and reports administrative actions associated with the primary duties of Equal Opportunity advisors and Command Managed Equal Opportunity program managers.

Tracking these hazing events can aid in determining the extent that these events are occurring, the type of events and keeping track of trends. Incidents of hazing are reported by the Navy Office of Hazing Prevention to the Chief of Naval Personnel.

Hospitalman William Brown, assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 24 at Kaneohe Bay, deals with hazing in his workspace by focusing on prevention and creating the appropriate work environment.

"If there is hazing in a work center or in a workspace, the work is not going to be done as efficiently as it could be," said Brown. "In the past, hazing was a lot more prevalent. Now we started educating people and we talk more about hazing, and actually punishing people for hazing outside of what Navy traditions are, it has been greatly reduced over the past few years."

Seaman Apprentice Ruben Nunez, Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility, Detachment Pearl Harbor, explained how respect relates to hazing.

"The Navy is definitely trying to get away from hazing, and it isn't as bad as it was before," said Nunez. "Some people don't have the same mind set as others when it comes to hazing and they act upon it. I think if my chief, for example, were to haze me, I would look at my chief in a different way, I would not respect him and rather experience fear than respect. I think there always will be some form of hazing, when anything gets to the point where it disrespects people it is a problem," added Nunez.

The Department of Navy policy on hazing can be found in SECNAVINST 1610.2A, where it emphasizes that Sailors and Marines are our most valuable resources and that DON leadership has a responsibility to create and maintain an environment free from hazing.

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