The commander of the 1st Marine Division, Maj. Gen. Eric Smith is apparently cracking down on hazing.

“I’m not here to inflict group punishment, but my assessment is that I’ve just been flipped the bird by lots of lance corporals, so I am headed their way to demonstrate this is an unwise [course of action],” said Smith in an email obtained by the Marine Corps Times.  Smith also made it clear that he wanted to personally adjudicate all cases of hazing and separate the offenders from service. In doing so, he may have demonstrated unlawful command influence over disciplinary hearings. At least one judge would seem to agree with that and has agreed with one defense team that unlawful command influence was present.

The tone of Smith’s email is telling as well, referring to the offending Marines as lance-corporals, while a good few are corporals. It’s a demeaning mention of rank in regard to an offense that’s supposed to have nothing to do with rank. The idea is that they are just simpletons who know nothing. They haven’t been around long enough to deign to know anything about how the Marine Corps works in the fair general’s mind. That’s ironic, considering that he was never enlisted, and therefore never subject to living in a barracks with senior Marines instilling the job skills by waking up the 0311s at 0311 hours and quizzing them. Nor was he subject to promotion systems that ebb and flow based upon Congress’s idea of how big or small the Marine Corps should be. As a result of that system, especially in combat arms units like 2/7, and 3/7 where these Marines were charged, four-year lance corporals, or terminal lances are often good Marines who just joined at the wrong time.

All that aside, a system already exists in order to handle these situations, as this is not the first time that the Marine Corps has dealt with hazing. So a division commander has no need to reinforce what is already a written standard. A worthwhile question would be are the Marines being investigated even in the realm of hazing?

The allegations 30 some odd Marines have recently been under investigation for include: physical assault, forced consumption of alcohol, forced haircuts, making Marines do fitness for failing work related tasks and blood-striping new NCOs.

All ahead stop. Let’s just make sure we’re all on the same sheet of music here.

Hazing is defined as any conduct whereby a military member or members, regardless of service or rank, without proper authority causes another military member or members, regardless of service or rank, to suffer or be exposed to any activity which is cruel, abusive, humiliating, oppressive, demeaning or harmful. –MCO 1700.28A

Now let’s go through the aforementioned examples.
Physical assault seems like an easy one to pick out, until you realize that the units where these incidents were said to occur are combat arms units. That’s not to say that a Marine in combat arms ought to get their ass kicked because that’s part of the job. But pain retains. It’s a noteworthy training tool remember “Oh, when I do this, bad things happen.” It’s not intended to be cruel, abusive, humiliating or otherwise. It literally exists to make you better at not dying. From my time as an urban shooting instructor at Camp Pendleton, I can tell you that when you get shot in the hip with a simulated munition (think paintball but harder) because you didn’t do a technique properly, you will never forget that technique. So take a Marine who falls asleep on post. What happens if a Marine falls asleep on post in a combat zone? Well that Marine might get dragged off by the enemy, beaten half-to death and executed on camera. His entire unit might also get killed in their sleep. So when it happens in training, there’s some training value in getting dragged a bit by three senior Marines speaking in Borat accent, “You screw up big time capitalist-dog! Sneaky you are not!” That’s an experience you won’t forget, and you’ll work to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.