What Is The Marine Corps Hazing Policy?

In the past, it may not have been uncommon to see a group of Marines engage in a ritual or right of passage that could have been perceived as cruel, abusive or humiliating. But as today's Marines are learning, an uncorrected pattern of misconduct does not qualify as a tradition.

"Hazing has never been a tradition of the Marine Corps," said 1st Sgt Joseph E. Vanfonda, MCLB Barstow Headquarters Battalion first sergeant.

As these hazing rituals are becoming more commonly identified, Marines are being held accountable.

As recently as June 3, an infantry Marine with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, was sentenced by courts-martial to 120 days in the brig, reduction to E-1 and a bad-conduct discharge for taking part in a practical joke on a fellow Marine, which was apparently inspired by the MTV movie "Jackass."

"Marines coming up in the Corps all too often have the perception that going through rituals makes you hard," said Vanfonda. "Being a hard Marine is nothing more than being well rounded. You don't have to be the base high-shooter or the best at PT to be a Marine, but you should touch all bases. That's what makes a hard Marine."

Marine Corps Order 1700.28, which defines hazing and the Marine Corps' intent on the issue, states that "no Marine ... may engage in hazing or consent to acts of hazing being committed upon them."

According to Vanfonda, asking to have a hazing ritual performed on you "doesn't make you hard, it makes you stupid."

The order defines hazing as any conduct whereby one military member causes another military member to suffer or be exposed to an activity that is cruel, abusive, humiliating or oppressive.

The order further explains some examples, in particular, "physically striking another to inflict pain" and "piercing another's skin in any manner."

"It may not be your perception of reality, but it's the perception of the people viewing you that really matters. Your intentions are one thing, the perception is reality," said Vanfonda.

One past ritual, known as "the gauntlet," may have been conducted amongst Marine noncommissioned officers as a Marine entered the NCO ranks. This painful process involved the newly promoted Marine getting kneed in the thigh by his fellow Marines, in an effort to leave a continuous bruise running up and down each leg to create a literal "blood stripe."

"There is only one gauntlet we as Marines go through, and it's called boot camp," said Vanfonda.

Not all rituals of hazing are so blatant and obvious. According to Vanfonda, patting a newly promoted Marine's collar chevrons may be a congratulatory gesture, but the perception could be that there are no backings on the chevron and the intent is to pierce the Marine's skin.

"I recommend a handshake," said Vanfonda.

According to the order, hazing need not involve physical contact and anyone in a supervisory position may be held accountable if he or she, by act, word or omission knows or reasonably should have known hazing was going to take place.

"I would like to see all of our leaders educate their Marines on what hazing is and let them know that it will not be tolerated by them or their Marines," said Vanfonda.

According to the hazing order, any violation, attempted violation, or solicitation of another to violate this order, subjects involved members to disciplinary action under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

"Don't do it, don't talk about doing it, and don't even think about it," said Vanfonda.