Soldier Turned Successful Businessman: “That Thing You Call ‘Hazing’ Made Me The Man I Am Today”

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When conducted properly and in the manner it was originally intended, “hazing” is more than just a group of drunken brothers yelling incoherently at a line of nervous freshman. It forces a group of strangers to work together, bonding them for life. It breaks down individual egos and builds up a cohesive unit. For an unruly 18 year-old, it is a catalyst for growth unlike any he has experienced since his nutsack squeezed a hearty dose of testosterone into his body seven years prior.

But maybe “hazing” isn’t the right word. It has such a negative connotation to it, instantly conjuring images of young men being paddled till their asses turn black and blue or being told to strip naked and grab each other by the shaft. The word has such power, that now every trial of passage bestowed upon a pledge — responsible or not — is branded as illegal, dangerous “hazing.”

While not directly related, the endless plague of fraternity “hazing” scandals — some warranted, many more not warranted — has undoubtedly effected the way the United States armed forces handles their new members. There is now a nationwide “stop hazing” revolution, and it has crept into every branch of the military. This former soldier is worried about what a lack of hazing could do to the military dynamic.

Before Jarred “J.T.” Taylor became an executive of multimedia empire Article 15 or landed a role in the film Range 15, he was just a kid who joined the army. In a piece he wrote for The Havok Journal, Taylor describes how the responsible initiation rituals he underwent were transformative, shaping him into the successful man he is today. He also examines how a common inability to distinguish his process from the frat boy hazing of Rolling Stone folklore has threatened to upend the rites of passage he holds dear.

Rituals like this have existed within our ranks and specialized units for years. The sad thing is, they are disappearing fast because of the word hazing. The problem is, hazing is grotesquely mislabeled and misunderstood by our senior leadership. Anytime the word is merely mentioned there is an immediate knee jerk reaction. It all stems from leadership afraid to lose their job from a congressional inquiry. But the real question here is what is the definition of hazing?

Hazing is the practice of rituals and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group. Hazing is seen in many different types of social groups including gangs, sports teams, schools, military units, and fraternities and sororities.

“Harassment, abuse and humiliation.”

Is it really “hazing,” or is it effective mission preparation?
Was I hazed when I showed up to the 14th ASOS? My job description required me to be physically fit, be able to carry heavy radios in a ruck, and most importantly be able to concentrate and do my job under intense stress. It seems to me that these guys were training me and helping me in all these areas. Aside from that, lets look at this from a social standpoint. At the point of showing up to the 14th ASOS I was a three time volunteer; once for the Air Force, Once for TACP, and finally for Airborne duty.

I wanted nothing more than to be in that unit, and be a part of their prestigious heritage and history. My motivation was to become one of them, so I would have gone along with any rituals or weird crazy shit they wanted me to do. To me, it was a right of passage. Everyone before me had done it, so who am I to ‘opt out’? I always said, “The more it sucks, the better story it will make.”

My advice towards this young generation that aspires to join specialized units is to embrace the suck. No hard dude ever cried to mommy or a Congressman because the guys were too mean to him. This is your right of passage, and your time to face the gauntlet. This is when your peers push you and test you in order to know if you can be one of them. I hope as time carries on that we see more General Officers rise through the ranks who have actual ground combat time so that we can shift the military back to a, “hard, and combat focused” culture. It’s sad seeing the true military culture slowly die with leaders chipping away at tradition and “true forms” of training.

Now, military initiation rituals are on an entirely different level than fraternity rituals. Rightfully so. Fraternities prep men to handle their alcohol and not creep out women. The military preps men for combat. But the overall sentiment of Taylor’s message applies to everyone, whether they’re a new member of a fraternity, the military, or an office building. Quit bitching. Roll with the punches. “Embrace the suck.” You’ll be a better man because of it.

It’s a shame that this sentiment is on the verge of extinction.

[via The Havok Journal]

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