Tapes lead Cohen to order a probe of 'blood pinning' New defense secretary calls for investigation after Marine incidents

February 01, 1997|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Confronting a case of military abuse in his first week in office, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen ordered a services-wide investigation yesterday of "blood pinning" after graphic videotapes broadcast on national television showed metal awards being forced into the flesh of Marines' chests.

"Abuse such as this has no place in any branch of the United

States military," said Cohen, a former Republican senator.

The defense secretary ordered Gen. John Shalikashvili, the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, and all four service chiefs to investigate how widespread hazing is throughout the military.

"Hopefully, it is not," Cohen told reporters at his first Pentagon news conference. "I intend to enforce a strict policy of zero tolerance of hazing, of sexual harassment and of racism."

The latest example of abuse of military trainees coincides with the fallout of the sexual harassment of female trainees at Aberdeen Proving Ground, which cast a cloud over the final months in the Pentagon of Cohen's predecessor, William J. Perry.

A sixth Army instructor at Aberdeen has been charged with indecent assault and other offenses involving four female trainees at the base, the Army announced yesterday.

The hazing that has been broadcast in the past two days occurred in 1991 and 1993 at the Marine training facility at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Graduates of an elite parachute course were video-taped writhing in pain as their golden "jump pins," awarded for completing 10 jumps, were forcibly pinned to the flesh of their chests.

The NBC news magazine "Dateline," which, along with CNN, aired the tapes, showed them earlier last month to the Marine commandant, Gen. Charles C. Krulak, who ordered the Marine inspector general to investigate. Krulak said yesterday that he was "outraged that Marines would participate in such disgusting behavior."

The Marines said yesterday that 10 of the Marines present at the 1991 incident had already been interviewed, and nine remain on active duty. Corps investigators were still trying to identify participants in the 1993 incident. Both videotapes were apparently made by participants.

According to a Marine statement, 54 Marines have faced courts-martial, and at least 34 have received non-judicial punishment in recent years for engaging in hazing and other improper initiation ceremonies. Punishment has included reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay, confinement and bad-conduct discharge.

Shalikashvili, who will retire in September after four years as the nation's top uniformed officer, said it was clear from the videotapes that some unit leaders were involved in the Marine paratroop hazing.

"That's what's particularly bothersome about this incident," Shalikashvili said.

Pub Date: 2/01/97

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