After Boot Camp Scandal, Lawmaker Calls for Hazing Review

A California congresswoman is asking the House Armed Services Committee to hold a hearing to investigate hazing in the military, following shocking revelations about mistreatment of Marine recruits at Parris Island, S.C.

Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat, sent a letter Oct. 24 to the committee's chairman and ranking member, saying she was concerned about the possibility of other incidents of service member maltreatment that have not yet been revealed.

"I am concerned about the recent media reports depicting a culture of hazing and abuse at the Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot," she wrote to Reps. Mac Thornberry, a Republican, and Adam Smith, a Democrat, in a letter first reported by Marine Corps Times. "These media reports seem to be indicative of a larger, pervasive hazing problem that has harmed soldiers' mental health, caused serious injury, diminished unit cohesion, and even cost lives."

She cited a February Government Accountability Office report that found the military did not know the full extent of hazing in the ranks, and did not do enough to track hazing incidents across the Defense Department.

Speier introduced an amendment to the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that would require the services to better identify and track hazing, including an anti-hazing database and improved training to recognize and respond to hazing. The amendment was adopted, but the bill has yet to pass.

"I understand that there will be investigations into the most recent incidents and we should not interfere with that," Speier wrote. "However, it is incumbent upon us in our oversight role to determine the extent to which this is a systemic problem and make sure the military is doing everything in its power to prevent cases like this from happening again."

A series of investigations released by the Marine Corps in September revealed that the suicide of recruit Raheel Siddiqui was linked to his mistreatment at the hands of a drill instructor who had hazed another Muslim recruit by throwing him into an industrial clothes dryer the year before.

The probes also showed that several recruits from the same battalion had been forced to drop out of boot camp due to rhabdomyolysis caused by hazing -- a fact that had been covered up by unit staff.

Some 20 drill instructors and senior leaders may be punished in connection with these incidents, and at least a few are likely to face criminal charges. Those decisions have yet to be announced by the Marine Corps.

It wouldn't be the first time that hazing in the military has resulted in congressional hearings.

The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the issue in 2012 in the wake of Lance Cpl. Harry Lew's death by suicide during a deployment, after other Marines berated and hazed him for falling asleep at his post. Lew was the nephew of Rep. Judy Chu, a Democrat from California, who has also aggressively pushed for hazing accountability and reforms.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at@HopeSeck.

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