WASHINGTON (Dec. 27, 2011) -- Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta added a pointed anti-bullying directive to a message sent Dec. 23 to service members around the world.
"I cannot be more proud of who you are and what you represent as you serve and sacrifice for our great nation," the message read, in part. "With that honor, is the responsibility to show by example our core values that demand we treat everyone with dignity and respect at all times.
"In that vein, let me be clear," the secretary continued. "I will not tolerate any instance where one service member inflicts any form of physical or psychological abuse that degrades, insults, dehumanizes or injures another service member."
Panetta directed military commanders to "personally review" policies and ensure compliance.
"This has my personal attention, as we continue our combat mission in Afghanistan, transition from our campaign in Iraq, and continue our global presence performing our nation's duties," the secretary wrote. "I need you to continue to make this a priority within your commands as this has a direct impact on our force readiness."
Members of the Defense Department and the services "will protect each other through fair, scrupulous, and unbiased treatment as individuals -- caring for them, teaching them and leading them," Panetta wrote. "It is the obligation of each member in the chain of command to ensure hazing is not allowed and that all service members are treated, at all times, with genuine dignity, fairness, and respect."
The Army Dec. 21 charged eight Soldiers allegedly involved in the death of Pvt. Danny Chen. Chen, an infantryman deployed to southern Afghanistan with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, was found dead in a guard tower Oct. 3 from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also spoke out strongly against hazing and bullying after the charges were announced. In a message posted to Facebook and Twitter Dec. 22, he wrote that while instances of hazing appear to be isolated, the practice is "simply intolerable."
"It undermines our values, tarnishes our profession and erodes the trust that bonds us," the chairman added.
The secretary's message also made clear that hazing and bullying are inconsistent with military values.
"The few that choose the wrong path cast a negative light on our collective ethos, our service, and all that we represent," Panetta wrote.
The message closed, as it opened, with the secretary thanking troops and expressing his good wishes for them and their families throughout the New Year.