MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
The Marine Corps has made revisions to Marine Corps Order 1700.28B, which details anti-hazing regulations, to reflect the Commandant’s concentration on holding commanders accountable for misconduct within their units.
In line with these changes, Lt. Col. John R. O’Neal, commanding officer, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, continues to rely on a good command climate and strong leadership from his non-commissioned officers to prevent any conduct that could cause harm to Marines or the unit’s readiness.
Hazing, as defined in MCO 1700.28B, is 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 and harmful. Soliciting or coercing another to perpetrate any such activity is also considered hazing.
“The MEU is special in that [Marines] are only one deep,” said O’Neal. “If we lose one individual because of a hazing incident, we lose a capability greater than that one individual.”
Changes to the reporting procedure were also made in the anti-hazing order to take a more proactive approach to hazing and hold commanders accountable for misconduct within their units.
“These changes were made for accountability and to clearly articulate the problem,” said O’Neal. “We’re now using the [Discrimination and Sexual Harassment] reporting system, which is the same system used for sexual assault, to report and document incidents.”
Using one system allows the Marine Corps to compare similarities between sexual assault and equal opportunity complaints, with an end goal of finding a way to decrease these incidents until they are no longer a problem.
“If you don’t fully understand what the problem is, it’s hard to correct,” said O’Neal. “All of the toxic behaviors we’re dealing with, whether it’s hazing, sexual assault, alcohol or drug abuse are all symptoms of a cultural problem or an institutional short fall. If we view those behaviors through a stove pipe we’re only addressing the symptom and not correcting the disease.”
O’Neal takes an active approach on these issues by building a good command climate, where Marines become stake holders in their unit.
“We show Marines the importance of what they do here at the MEU,” said O’Neal. “The commander has to set the command climate, but it’s the NCOs that are on the front lines of these toxic behaviors.”
Sergeant Maj. John W. Scott, sergeant major, 15th MEU, believes NCOs are integral in helping build a good command climate that fosters professional military growth.
“Every Marine is taught the standard at Parris Island, San Diego and [Officer Candidate School],” said Scott. “We need to make clear what the expectations of [the 15th MEU] are. Once Marines understand the expectations, they learn their value to the team.”
Sergeant Chenee Bibian, administration specialist, Command Element, 15th MEU, ensures her Marines understand what is expected of them on a daily basis.
“I teach my Marines to treat everyone with the same respect they’d want to be treated,” said Bibian, 23, from Española, N.M. “This gives them the confidence to look out for one another and not be afraid to report any incidents.”
Even though NCOs play an essential role in preventing hazing, every Marine is responsible for holding themselves and others accountable.
“We can educate people, but when it comes upholding the standard and reporting these incidents, everybody has an equal role in that,” said O’Neal. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a Pfc. or the XO of the unit, you have a role in preventing and reporting.”