Just days after the U.S Army announced charges against eight soldiers in connection with the death of Private Danny Chen, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today called on the Defense Department to conduct a system-wide review of the armed services' hazing incidents and ties to racial discrimination. To address concerns that Private Chen's death and other cases of alleged military hazing are reflective of a larger problem, Senator Gillibrand asked the military to provide information on the type of training and disciplinary actions commanding officers took in those instances. The Senator requested a comprehensive briefing by next month.
According to reports, the military's investigation into Private Chen's death found that the 19 year-old soldier had been subjected to racially-motivated taunts, bullying, and physical abuse by his superiors and comrades. The eight soldiers were charged with manslaughter, negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and dereliction of duty. An earlier case this year reveals that another Asian American soldier subjected to hazing committed suicide. The death of Lance Corporal Harry Lew led to the court-martial of several Marines in October for their roles in his death.
"My deepest condolences go out to the Chen family," said Senator Gillibrand. "I cannot imagine what they are going through as they mourn the senseless loss of their son. No soldier should have to mentally or physically fear another soldier. There is no room for discrimination and mistreatment in our military. We need to ensure that those responsible for this type of abuse are held accountable and we must take steps to prevent any more tragedies from happening."
Senator Gillibrand wrote in a letter to Dr. Joanne Rooney, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, "Private Chen's case is not the first instance of alleged hazing of an Asian American serving in the military. It is outrageous that any man or woman serving our country would be subject to discrimination or harassment. I have heard military leaders state that hazing is not tolerated by the U.S. military. Given these cases, it is important for the strength of our armed forces and their relationship with America's diverse communities that there be a close examination of the following issues."
Senator Gillibrand's full letter is below:
Dear Dr. Rooney,
We are all deeply saddened by the death of Army Private Daniel Chen. While I am pleased to see that the Army is taking this very seriously and has moved to transfer and charge eight soldiers in the case, I am concerned that this case could be emblematic of a broader issue that needs to be closely reviewed and immediately addressed.
As you know, Private Chen's case is not the first instance of alleged hazing of an Asian American serving in the military. It is outrageous that any man or woman serving our country would be subject to discrimination or harassment. I have heard military leaders state that hazing is not tolerated by the U.S. military. Given these cases, it is important for the strength of our armed forces and their relationship with America's diverse communities that there be a close examination of the following issues:
1. Is there a report provided to your office of instances of hazing by type, service, command, and location? If so, I would like to receive it.
2. What type and quantity of training is provided to both officers and recruits with respect to hazing and racial, religious, gender or other types of discrimination?
3. Is there additional training prior to deployment?
4. What is the standard procedure by commanding officers when incidents of hazing are reported?
5. What is the process for reporting such incidents outside one's chain of command?
6. What are the disciplinary and/or legal repercussions for such incidents? Please provide a report of actions taken in the instances reported in the first bullet point.
I would be pleased to work with you in this matter and would like a briefing for my office in the next few weeks on the issues raised herein and any other that would be appropriate related matters.