Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hazing Part I

I was hazed when I was a cadet at The Citadel.

Hazing had occurred there, and my guess is that it still does, for the roughly 160 years that it's been around in Charleston, SC. You saw about it in the news all the time, heard about cadets getting the crap beat out of them and subsequently the offending cadets being expelled or had charges brought against them. But here's the surprising caveat:

I didn't mind. In fact I felt that The Citadel wouldn't have made me into the person I am now without it.

There's a caveat to the caveat: Hazing in and of itself is not the evil. It's the type of hazing, the purposes behind it, and the individuals performing it that give it it's dark side. Hazing done simply because someone is a sadistic ass, or done to get some kind of weird "high" is wrong. Hazing doen simply to hurt someone, or because "well, that's what happened to me" is also wrong. So is hazing done that is physical beating and what the guys that watch GITMO would call "torture." All bad.

But the problem with admnistrations scared to death of lawsuits is that they go to another extreme, one in which a military insititution is softened as a result. The hazing that I received, and administered, was physical extertion--pushing cadets well past whatever limit they had set for themselves, and reducing their personal comfort zones to rubble to prepare them for circumstances that they would have to face in the future.

Like a tent in Afghanistan. Or Iraq...

There was a group that has since been disbanded called the "Junior Sword Drill." Not many people I've told this to outside the ivory walls of my alma mater understand the mystique, but I'll try to explain it again here.

The Junior Sword Drill, or JSD, was a drill organization comprised of 14 cadets (and one alternate) that performed a 14 minute precision drill performance and then held the honor of arcing swords over the heads of the seniors when they received their class Rings. Being given the Ring, and walking under the sword arch, was a moment that every cadet longed for from the day they arrived at school as a knob (freshman) or earlier. Being on that organization was a distinct honor. Cadets were only eligible to even try out for the group if they were in the top 30 or so highest-ranking juniors. Those 30 were taken nightly for two weeks into a locked gym and driven to exhaustion in the rite of passage to earn the honor of being a member. One by one trainees would either quit or be eliminated, until only 15 remained. Through the screen on my darkened room (freshmen were not allowed to even look at the trainees) I saw my first seargeant (who would later become commander of the JSD) dragged into his room unconscious.

My first seargeant was a wiry, short, Army-contracted cadet that I'll call Fury. Everything about this guy marked the position of excellence in being a cadet. From the shaved head to the reflective shoes and starched uniform, he could have easily have been on the cover of the yearbook. He made our lives a miserable form of existence due to the fact that his energy level was unmatched by anyone else that I've ever met. Throughout the course of my freshman year, though, he went from being a source of hatred from us to a source of motivation. The tenacity in which he led that company made us horrified at the possibility of failing his expectations. Throughout it all, however, we developed a sense that unlike other upperclassmen, whose purpose in dealing out pain to us was to serve some sort of ego boost, Fury's purpose was to make us better cadets--to better prepare us for what was to come.

The point that JSD became more mystical was when you would ask about it. No one, save the members of the team, knew the details of what was occurring behind the locked doors of that gym. And none of them would speak. It was a giant mystery that propogated an even more mystical existence.

As I said, Fury made the JSD and became its commander. As luck would have it, my commander (a senior), a 6' 6" 220 pound monster, was the commander of his JSD the previous year. So my company was kind of a hot zone for JSD types.

Whenever the JSD would run in formation, they unsheathed their swords slightly and slammed them back into their scabbards simultaneously. The shhhik-shhhik sound that it made eerily echoed off the barracks walls when they would depart to or arrive from training. They also had a chant that they would call out--"We Love...Sword Drill....We Love...Sword Drill." The trainees, I later found out, were not permitted to say the chant until the training was over--they said it backwards--"Drill Sword, Love We"--until then. I know, it sounds ridiculous. But at school, especially through the eyes of a knob, these guys were gods.

So there I was...we were on a PT run with all the freshmen being led by both Fury and my commander. The previous week, Fury thought it would be cool to have us yell the chant as we went through the barracks as a group with him leading. We got so fired up that we could've run forever. I found out later that he got in trouble for that. The following week we were on another run and my buds had started to sputter from exhaustion. So I took it upon myself to motivate my classmates and started a chant.

"We Love," I shouted. My classmates echoed it.

"Sword Drill," I shouted again. Noone answered.

My commander turned with a look from hades itself on his face and pummeled through my classmates like a bowling ball with them as pins on his way to me. At a full run, he pulled my then 185 pound body up to his face, dangling me by my shirt. He didn't stop running.

After receiving the verbal abuse (and subsequent drop onto the pavement at said full run) from my CO I thought my worries were over. It wasn't until we got back to the barracks that I realized that that was nothing. Fury stood glaring at me from the sidelines with his frighteningly cold stare as we took our last lap around the block. As we slowed to a walk I saw him motion from the corner of my eye. Without saying a word, I fell out and followed him into a room...



  1. It was actually Drill Sword, WE Love that we chanted prior to being on JSD...

  2. Brace LaChance........Lima 1995. Hope you and your family are doing well!

  3. I am Class of 90 Delta Company. My Cadre Platoon Leader was the Whip of the 87 JSD. Two of our Platoon Sgt's were Roaching and made the 88 JSD. Nevertheless,my Knob Year was pretty tough!

    1. Best experience of my Citadel career was JSD. Will always be proud of JSD-it is a shame that those that took no part in it felt the need to destroy it.

      Bill McClain 87 JSD