Despite attempts by the Marine Corps to crack down on hazing rituals, the practice unfortunately persists. While hazing likely occurs in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, hazing practices in the Marines have the reputation of being the most brutal, and hazing is more ingrained in the culture of this branch of the U.S. military than in the others.
According to the Marine Corps Times:
The Marine Corps investigated 377 alleged hazing incidents between January 2012 and June 2015, substantiating about a third of the cases.
Hazing Cases in the Marines
Perhaps one of the most well-known instances of hazing in recent years was the 2016 death of 20-year-old Raheel Siddiqui, who fell from a stairwell not long after arriving for boot camp at Parris Island in South Carolina.
An investigation found that a drill sergeant had physically and verbally abused Siddiqui and other Muslim recruits, putting one of them in a clothes dryer and turning it on. Although Siddiqui's death was ruled a suicide, the drill sergeant was sentenced to 10 years in prison for maltreatment of the recruits.
According to the New York Times, hazing instances grew worse in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as a wave of recruits flooded all branches of the U.S. military. The investigation into Siddiqui's death revealed that, at Parris Island, hazing often was seen as just another part of boot camp training.
Official Marines Policy on Hazing
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."
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."
One past ritual, known as "the gauntlet," may have been conducted among Marine noncommissioned officers as a Marine entered the noncommissioned officer (NCO) ranks. This painful process involved the newly promoted Marine getting kneed in the thigh by his fellow Marines, to leave a continuous bruise running up and down each leg to create a literal "blood stripe."
Less Obvious Hazing Rituals in the Marines
Not all rituals of hazing are blatant. Patting a newly promoted Marine's collar chevrons sometimes may be done as a congratulatory gesture, but if there are no backings on the chevron, the intent can be to pierce the Marine's skin.
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 an act, word, or omission knows or reasonably should have known hazing was going to take place.
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.