Thank You, Sir, May I Have Another! Part 2

A recent hazing flap involving a professional football rookie, prompted me to write last week about my first experience with hazing–when I was a fraternity pledge.  And, yes, it very much had an “Animal House” quality to it.

The second instance was government-sponsored “hazing.” It was called “basic training”!  It had all the classic elements of hazing:  name-calling, physical exertion, humiliation, intentional infliction of mental distress–all in an effort to forge you into a unit where the goals of the group supersede those of the individual. The person in charge was a highly disciplined, physically imposing, and much-feared training instructor (“TI”) who looked like he came right out of Central Casting: the chiseled and intimidating Sergeant McCoy.

Basic training, arguably, has a higher purpose than pledgeship–making you a member of the armed forces inculcated with the essential skills and attitude to serve in a military unit.  But both experiences had a lot in common.  In fact, having gone through pledgeship, basic training was a breeze!  I got it.  I understood the theatrics.  When the TI yelled at me, I knew the drill:  take it — but not personally.

There was another big difference.  I never got the impression that our TI enjoyed making us “suffer.”  I can’t say that about some of the actives in the fraternity.  There was a contingent of meatheads who took real glee in the humiliation of others; they enjoyed seeing other people suffer just a little too much.  It was a real eye-opener — and an important lesson in my education — for me to encounter a group of people who believed, “I had to suffer, so you should, too.”  They were like a group of collegiate Neanderthals–outside the process of evolution.  Apparently, in professional football, that lineage continues.

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  • Whereas the hazing of NFL rookies may have been excessive, there is a need to induce subordination to the group in the NFL that is more compelling than in any college fraternity. Obviously the military is a quantum leap above the NFL on that score though. I served in the Air Force Reserves in the 1970s and had a somewhat unique experience in basic training. During my 8 weeks at Lackland air Force Base, the only USAF basic training base then, there was an unprecedented change in not only the treatment of recruits but of enlisted personnel in general. What training instructors were allowed to do “to” recruits when I arrived and what they were allowed to do when I graduated from basic training bore very little resemblance to one another. Also there was a major increase in ALL enlisted personnel pay.
    I fell victim to a base-wide epidemic of influenza, hence the 8 week stay vs the standard 6 weeks of basic training in the USAF at the time. I graduated with a different “flight” (coincides with platoon in the Army and Marines) and squadron than I was assigned to on arrival, having spent 2 weeks in a recovery “flight” in the middle of my stay there. The difference between the life of a recruit when I entered recovery and when I came out of it was like night and day.

  • I continued discussion of what active duty for training was like for me on my facebook page. I was lucky to never be “Called up” as a reservist so that’s all the experience I have with military duty, monthly and yearly duty being what it was. Some with similar service may find humor in it.