Female Sailors Hazed in Navy, Forced to Carry Human Waste

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The military has a reputation for hazing and a history of sexual assault. So perhaps we shouldn't be surprised to hear that a recent Navy investigation revealed that a group of women were forced to carry human waste out of a ship's broken toilets out to a pier — many of them without protective equipment — while the ship's two top leaders did nothing. But both Cmdr. Kenneth Rice, executive officer of the USS Jason Dunham, and Master Chief Petty Officer Stephen Vandergrifft, were fired after being found guilty in non-judicial proceedings Friday.

The investigation, which began after an anonymous email tip, found that Vandergrifft had ordered 19 female sailors to empty the waste from the non-functioning toilets, clean them, and then march to the pier, in formation, carrying buckets of human feces. The destroyer's sewage system had been shut down for maintenance, but many had used the toilets regardless.

“After cleaning the toilets they took the waste — which was solid waste, basically — and made them march in formation down the pier to dispose of it in a portable toilet at the end of the pier,” said FFC spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Reann Mommsen. “The real hazing is them being marched down the pier in formation.”

The female sailors hadn't even been given proper protective clothing or equipment to clean the bathrooms, including things like coveralls, face shields and rubber gloves. They were forced to carry the feces in plastic bags and buckets along the pier, after which they were told to dump the waste into portable toilets, all while being watched by other crew members.

“Some of the senior crew members witnessed this or knew about it and failed to prevent it or report it,” Mommsen said.

Hazing has been an issue for the military for years. And while this particular case is more to do with humiliation than anything else, previous cases have been downright abusive. In 2011, a 19-year-old Army private was hazed by six other soldiers, who, for over a month, would drag him across the gravel yard on his back until he bled, in "punishment" for forgetting to turn off the water pump, calling him “gook” and “chink.” Another marine, Harry Lew, killed himself after his peers ordered him to dig a foxhole while carrying his heavy full body armor and a 25-lb sandbag, after which they kicked him, punched him, and poured the entire contents of a sandbag onto his face and in his mouth — for over three hours.

"Hazing has no place in our military. It undermines our military readiness and deeply scars volunteers forced to endure it. We must have a zero-tolerance hazing policy in our military," said Congresswoman Judy Chu, Lew's aunt.

The news comes a day after the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in the hopes of addressing the military’s problem with sexual assault, and less than a week after Maj. Gen. Gary Patton — the chief of the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office — resigned from his position after being accused of blocking an investigation into abuses reported at a U.S. taxpayer-funded hospital in Afghanistan.