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2 RDCs face court-martial on hazing accusations

Nov. 20, 2012 - 09:56AM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 20, 2012 - 09:56AM  |  
Two RDCs are facing court-martial for allegedly forcing recruits to PT, even after some began to vomit or urinate themselves.
Two RDCs are facing court-martial for allegedly forcing recruits to PT, even after some began to vomit or urinate themselves. (Colin Kelly / Staff)
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Two recruit division commanders are headed to court-martial for allegations they hazed recruits in June.

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Two recruit division commanders are headed to court-martial for allegations they hazed recruits in June.

Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuels) 1st Class (SW) Christopher Pustam is charged with failing to obey an order or regulation, cruelty and maltreatment, making false official statements and obstructing justice.

He was referred to court-martial Oct. 24, and his trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 15, according to the Naval Service Training Command.

A day later, Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 1st Class (SW/AW) Michael Kwon was referred for court-martial on accusations of cruelty and maltreatment, making a false official statement and assault. His trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 8.

Four other RDCs received nonjudicial punishment. The Navy has not identified them, nor has it said how they were disciplined. One is a chief, two are petty officers first class and one is a petty officer second class, Navy officials have said.

All six are now performing administrative duties at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Ill., an NSTC spokesman said.

Two divisions involved

The charges date back to a June 28 incident at Great Lakes. Two divisions — 167 recruits in all — were allegedly forced to pound water and conduct an extended "instructional training exercise" in a cramped space with no access to bathrooms.

Ten recruits allegedly vomited or urinated on themselves, and everyone was forced to continue exercising in the mess.

Instructional training exercise is a punitive physical training tool RDCs have to correct recruits, but there are rules on how it can be used.

Three recruits spoke with Navy Times earlier this year on condition of anonymity and provided their firsthand accounts of the experience.

The divisions were placed together in a recruit barrack and were told to move their bunks to the side of their room, recruits said.

Relocating bunks is common when extra room is needed for exercises and formations, but this time, they said, they were instructed specifically to block off access to the heads.

From there, they began PT. Recruits said it lasted an hour, although Navy officials said it was about 45 minutes.

"We really didn't know any better and thought this was just how boot camp was," a recruit told Navy Times.

Navy officials said the recruits in divisions 241 and 242 were forced to PT because of poor performances as a group. But the recruits alleged that the RDCs punished them because one of their peers didn't drink enough water and that they were being taught a lesson in proper hydration.

Rear Adm. David Steindl, commander of NSTC, told Navy Times this year it was an isolated incident.

The command discovered what had happened after recruits reported to medical and were diagnosed with water poisoning. The RDCs involved were removed as an investigation began.

As a result of the incident, Great Lakes has changed the rules for using instructional training exercises. Now, an RDC must get written permission to use the punishment, there must be notification of the exercises, and doors must be kept open while the exercises occur.

The punishment must occur on large, open areas, and only the leadership of each "ship" — the boot camp term for recruit barracks —can be present.

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