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Jan 24 2012

Air Force Major Jonathan C. Dowty Thinks Military “Hazing” Is Just Misunderstood

In a post this morning on his blog, Air Force Major Jonathan C. Dowty, a.k.a. the Christian Fighter Pilot, offers his thoughts on a Wall Street Times article about hazing in the military. Major Dowty even brings up the tragic death of Army Private Danny Chen, the Chinese-American soldier who committed suicide in a guardhouse in Afghanistan after being subjected to months of ethnic slurs and torture by his fellow soldiers.

Then Dowty gives his opinion on “hazing” in the military. This fine Christian officer seems to think that hazing is no big deal, and that service members taking the punishment of other service members into their own hands is completely acceptable.

From Major Dowty’s post, titled Hazing and the US Military

Unmentioned, and probably not understood, is that sometimes what people might consider “hazing” may be the “lesser of two evils” on the parts of the victims. Hypothetically, a Soldier caught in wrongdoing might be given a choice: pay the required official retribution (and get a black mark on your record), or, say, do 1,000 pushups or some other created (but unofficial) punishment.  Rather than ruin their career, and acknowledging the fact they were in the wrong, many may choose the “hazing” option.

From an internet source, talking about the very serious issue of falling asleep on guard duty (a crime considered so serious, in some armies death was actually a legitimate punishment, including the American army in the Civil War):

Question:
You’re pulling guard. The guy with you takes his shift [while you rest]. A guy you’ve known for a couple a months. Good guy. Good soldier. You pass out, wake up and find him snoozing. Do you report this guy? Take care of it “in house.” Or let it slide?

One response:

Cover his a–, then kick his a–.

Illegal?  Technically.  Common?  Likely.

I’m sure the family of Private Danny Chen would be thrilled to know that a field grade officer in our military thinks this type of behavior, which he admits is illegal, is no big deal, and that he equates what happened to Danny with what he sees as nothing more than commonplace hazing.

24 comments

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  1. 1
    The Lorax

    Huh. So “punishment” and “retribution” are somehow synonymous with “hazing” and “bullying”? I always thought that one required you do something wrong, whilst the other required you do nothing other than exist.

    I wonder what Danny did to deserve being “punished”… I guess he inherited the DNA of his parents.

  2. 2
    Didaktylos

    This guy onviously thinks of Colonel Jessup as a role model.

  3. 3
    MikeMa

    JD’s been an asshole for years. It is a wonder though that he doesn’t have a colonel or higher ranking officer kicking his chritian ass from one end of the base to the other. I guess JD kisses higher butt real well.

  4. 4
    cottonnero

    Yes, clearly Pvt. Chen chose the ‘months of ethnic slurs and torture leading to suicide’ option, rather than having a mark on his permanent record.

    Man, it’s like “JD says nothing imbecilic today” would be the news story.

  5. 5
    passerby

    http://www.army.mil/media/232222/

    A letter, signed by the Honorable John McHugh, Gen. Raymond Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III.

    I do realize that these are different domains, but this letter talks about hazing in the Armed Forces in the first paragraph, and explicitly states that it is incompatible with what the SecDef and Chairman Dempsey see for our Armed Forces, than all of the branches need to take notice.

    So I guess that JD disagrees with moth of the senior military leadership. Way to stay classy, sir.

    Also, as a leader, I would verbally counsel the Soldier to remind him of his duties on guard, then recommend some ways of keeping him awake. I WOULD NOT use my grade or position to embarrass him, create undue stress or ‘kick his ass’.

  6. 6
    YankeeCynic

    Just because things are common doesn’t make them acceptable. Sexual harassment within the Army is common enough to be worrying, but the last time I checked it isn’t something to be proud of, and it isn’t something that we should be encouraging.

    The thing the good Major is ignoring is that we discourage these kinds of activities in the Army for a REASON. First and foremost, how do you KNOW that hazing is being fairly applied. I’ve served in combat with a front-line combat arms unit. Like it or not, despite the bonds that get formed in these environments humans don’t cease to be human. Grudges are formed. Biases take root. Before you know it some Soldiers are being victimized only because he isn’t particularly liked, whether his offense is any greater than the norm. Second, Soldiers are put through the UCMJ publicly because its often for the greater good. You can sweep some things under the rug, but often public examples are important, and the benchmarks that come from having multiple Soldiers going through the system often highlight problems that you might not see otherwise. The kill team operating within 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division comes to mind.

    There’s a difference between problems being handled internally, and Soldiers being abused or problems being swept under the rug. Case in point, I had a Soldier in my platoon lose his M4 one night on the FOB. We reported it, executed a search, and fortunately found it. The Soldier went before the man, but based on the Soldiers record and the circumstances we were allowed to handle it internally. We went ahead and did some official corrective training on the books, and it served two purposes: it set an example to others, and it allowed us to make sure he wasn’t being abused.

    Isn’t it interesting that the folks who are most disconnected from actual combat life (like, say, pampered and babied fighter pilots) seem to have the harshest views of how to handle life in environments that they’re never in. It’s almost like they’re overcompensating or something…

  7. 7
    MikeMa

    @passerby,
    In other words, you would act in a far more christian fashion than uber christian JD.

  8. 8
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    I mean, c’mon, hazing is just community building.

  9. 9
    passerby

    Once again, JD deleted my post when I asked him if he was holding a position contrary to the SecDef and CJCS.

    I just want to know if he advocates the position. I didn’t call him any names, I didn’t criticize or try to foist an opinion on him. I was respectful, and addressed him as ‘sir’.

    I don’t know why he deleted it.

  10. 10
    peterh

    JD is still lower than whale shit. Oops! That’s Navy!

  11. 11
    bryanfeir

    You know, in the (one and only) course on law I took, ‘falling asleep on guard duty’ was actually used as an example in the text book on why the punishment for crimes is and should be context-dependent.

    Case 1: Guard on army base in guardhouse by locked gate is discovered asleep on duty by other guard on patrol. No damage done, really. Punishment was a whole lot of pushups while everybody watched, followed by revocation of off-base permissions for the next week.

    Case 2: Guard on ceremonial duty on parade route is discovered asleep on duty by commanding officer doing a check as the parade gets close. Unit made to look incompetent to parade goers. Punishment involved demotion and large fine, and guard left army afterwards.

    Case 3: Guard on guard duty in war zone is discovered just waking up as enemy attacks the encampment. Guard is shot by his commanding officer on site for dereliction of duty.

    So, yeah, death may be a valid punishment in that case, but it really depends on the circumstances. And these circumstances involve trying to survive on the army base while surrounded by people who don’t respect you. In the army, particularly in a war zone where everybody needs to be able to rely on the people around them for their survival, shunning is close to a death sentence. Nobody would choose that if they thought they had another choice.

  12. 12
    Ace of Sevens

    I never woudl have guessed there were pro-bullying advocates. Hell, I would have thought you were making it up if not for the link and the other examples I’ve seen

  13. 13
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Don’t fall into the trap of addressing hazing as JD wants to frame it, either. Simple (not excessive) punishments for doing something which is actually wrong is not hazing.

  14. 14
    passerby

    Bryanfeir #11; That must have been quite a while back.

    Case 2: Guard on ceremonial duty on parade route is discovered asleep on duty by commanding officer doing a check as the parade gets close. Unit made to look incompetent to parade goers. Punishment involved demotion and large fine, and guard left army afterwards.

    From what I’m gathering here, the Soldier in question was forced out of the Army via his punishment, which meant it would be a Uniform Code of Military Justice issue. I don’t think any commander would go to tactics like this for a Soldier being caught asleep during parade. Now, if it were a repeat offense, then UCMJ action could be taken. But on a first time offense, I don’t think that he would be forced out, let alone demoted and pay withheld.

    There would be some definite counseling later, and probably remedial training, but that would most likely consist of a ‘smoke’ session (Physical exercise while being counseled/shouted at) and a week or two of daily practice to make sure the Soldier got the basics down right.

    Case 3: Guard on guard duty in war zone is discovered just waking up as enemy attacks the encampment. Guard is shot by his commanding officer on site for dereliction of duty.

    Completely wrong. That commander would go straight to jail for treason. Think about it: the enemy is attacking, and he shoots one of the men defending the post. This offense would be grounds for UCMJ Action, and could very well result in prison time for the guard who fell asleep and risked the lives of his fellows, especially if it resulted in the death of fellow service members. But we are not the Imperium of Man, and commanding officers are not Commissars who can walk around giving out summary executions for major infractions.

  15. 15
    Phillip IV

    Unmentioned, and probably not understood, is that sometimes what people might consider “hazing” may be the “lesser of two evils” on the parts of the victims.

    Unmentioned, not understood, and not relevant to the context. Also: illegal.

    Where’s Dowty even trying to go with his argument? Even leaving completely aside that the sort of vigilant justice the good Major describes is illegal, if people subject themselves to it voluntarily for the sake of their careers, it would obviously not be reported as hazing (or rather at all). Is Dowty’s reflex to blame the victim just so strong that he absolutely can’t help it?

    Keeping in mind this quote from Dowty:

    Being a fighter pilot is like being in a motorcycle gang…except your mother is still proud of you.

    it might be high time for him to consider leaving the Air Force in favour of a motorcycle gang – after everything he’s said, I just can’t imagine his mother is really still proud of him, and the Hell’s Angels seem like a more natural environment for his ideas about discipline.

    The Air Force could probably gainfully replace him with an unmanned drone – he hardly ever seems to do anything but drone, drone, drone, anyway.

  16. 16
    bryanfeir

    Bryanfeir #11; That must have been quite a while back.

    Yes, it was quite a while back. It also was not the American military, as this was not an American law textbook. The UCMJ doesn’t apply everywhere in the world.

  17. 17
    Pinky

    Hazing is the ‘beating-in’ used by street gangs. Although beating-in seems an especially poor way to recruit and hold members since they can experience maiming or death during the ritual.

    I suspect the prime movers behind hazing may be people with latent personality disorders whose peers should hope never experience enough stressors to commit an act even more violent and destructive than hazing.

    Until Major Dowty spoke up as an apologist for the immature, destructive, sadistic act of hazing, street gang members were the only ones I’ve heard singing its praises.

  18. 18
    shpbk45213

    I was just curious if anyone has been able to confirm whether JD really is a military officer?

    When I was a kid I ran into my share of dingbat officers, but NEVER did I come across one who would publicly denigrate the official military policy on anything, let alone do so on a blog. That makes me suspect JD is not really a military officer.

  19. 19
    Chris Rodda

    Yes, JD is absolutely Major Jonathan C. Dowty, an active duty Air Force officer at Edwards AFB in California. This has been confirmed.

  20. 20
    shpbk45213

    Appalling.

  21. 21
    joelerickson

    As Pinky said above, hazing can take the form of a “beat in” rather than a punishment for anything in particular. It’s what cut my time in service in the Air Force short with an honorable discharge.

    It was near the end of March, 2004 when I went on my first TDY. The rule was, if it was your first TDY you got your head shaved. They didn’t tell you when it would happen, it would just happen Jackass Style with someone with a razor buzzing you while your “buddies” held you down.

    The first time around, an NCO came over and tried to grab me but I managed to get free. I believe I accidentally kicked him in the groin which affected his judgment, because a few minutes later the same NCO came back around a got my attention while I saw the shadows of a large group of people come up from behind me. One second I’m standing up, the next I’m on the ground looking up and someone’s knee was on my neck.

    Someone started to shave my head, then they stopped. They stood me up on my feet and noticed a large pool of blood on the pavement where my head had been.

    They took me off base to get my head checked out because the base did not have the facilities to do so. When I relayed me story to the medical personnel, I made sure they understood that my injury was due to hazing. I had no problems with anyone taking my information until I had to deal with TriCare after we returned home. When I told my TriCare rep it was hazing, he tried to convince me that I should use the term “horsing around” with the implication being that I tripped and fell without anyone else around.

    The entire week after we returned from that TDY, I spoke like I was drunk. It was difficult not to slur my words, and I had issues with balance.

    The long-term effects are that I can’t process numbers, and my short-term memory is shot. It’s not combat related, so no one wants to talk to me. And I have learned some ways to cope with a reduced memory, but it’s not a perfect system.

    I would ask Maj. Dowty if he thinks that losing the ability to make short-term memory was just part of the deal I made when signed up to serve, and that I somehow deserved what I got?

  22. 22
    Pinky

    JoelErickson, I’m pissed that happened to you. If you don’t mind saying, I’d like to know what happened to the assholes that assaulted you. Don’t write if it bothers you. I am reluctant to tell my story as it set off my PTSD. Sometimes I’ll tell a piece of it to make a point, like you did, but I normally keep it to myself, although I recently went into detail in Ed’s blog in the “Misunderstanding Assisted Suicide” post.

    I’ve often wondered how these idiot hazing things start. It must be one person with a borderline personality problem who thinks: “You know, things are pretty peaceful around here , I think I’ll invent some cruel thing to do to a new person and get a gang of people to help me inflict it.” Then long after the initiator is gone the process continues because: ”It’s the way things have always been done.” It reminds me a bit of religion.

  23. 23
    joelerickson

    Pinky,

    I don’t mind at all. In the following investigation, two NCOs came forward (which did not include the NCO who was assigned to QA, who did not stop anything that he saw or report it). I knew both of them well enough that I knew that anything that would either get them demoted or hurt their future prospects at promotion would hurt them in their abilities to provide for their large and growing families. I spoke to my Shirt about what punishment I felt was appropriate and asked him to offer community service versus non-judicial punishment. My Shirt initially didn’t want to as he felt strongly enough about what happened, but he went through with it. I called both NCOs and informed them of their options. Both of them cried when I told them, and both were extremely sorry for what had happened, trying to reassure me that it was never meant to go as far as it did.

    At no time was I made aware of my legal options, and while there was a brief crackdown on anything resembling hazing, our OIC was quick to make light of it and encourage hazing again a month later as our group was gearing up for another TDY.

  24. 24
    Pinky

    Thanks JoelErickson. I would bet the same hazing is still happening at the AFB you were at.

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