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Zero Tolerance for Bad Behavior, Chairman Says

By Staff Sgt. Lee Roberts, USAF
National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18, 1997 – The military must have zero tolerance for racial inequality, sexual harassment and hazing, and must protect those who speak out against unwarranted behavior, the nation's top military officer said.

People must feel they can freely use the chain of command to voice complaints without fear of retribution, Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a group of military journalists Feb. 10. They shouldn't fear they will hurt their careers if someone acts improperly against them, he said.

Shalikashvili said leaders are surprised by the extent to which sexual harassment existed in training. He also said he finds it disturbing leaders were unaware of the unacceptable behavior.

The chairman said it is important that service members give the chain of command the first chance to address these incidents. If "you can't get satisfaction or you are afraid that the chain of command will take some sort of punitive action against you, go see the chaplain," he said. "The worst thing you can do is sit quiet. Sexual harassment is a crime."

Shalikashvili said he believes all services are investigating every case of sexual harassment with the proper sensitivity to the rights of the accused and to the victims in an "open-transparent" way. "And so, as painful as this is, I believe ... we will come through it and will be stronger services because of this process that we've gone through," he said.

The general also condemned the mistaken notion that hazing is part of the warrior spirit. "Far from it," he said. "It's wrong, and unless you want it to happen again, you need to speak up."

There are plenty of worthwhile military traditions that build service members up and make them feel good about themselves, Shalikashvili said. Doing hurtful demeaning things to someone has no business in U.S. military traditions, he said.

(Roberts is the editor of the Joint Staff newspaper J-Scope)

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