The Air Force has removed a squadron commander from his position at Joint Base Lewis-McChord after investigators found what they described as “a culture of hazing” that included binding airmen with duct tape.
Leaders in the 354th Fighter Wing said Lt. Col. Joshua Cates of the 5th Air Support Operations Squadron at JBLM was relieved this week. The investigation also led to the removal of Lt. Col. Robb Fiechtner of the 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.
The investigation found that it was common for those in the squadrons to tackle and restrain an individual airman before binding that person’s hands or feet using duct tape, according to a news release from the 354th Fighter Wing. Under the practice known as “rolling up,” those participating would allow the individual to struggle before they were released.
“We’re better than this,” said Col. Benjamin Bishop, the commander of the 354th FW, in a news release. “Every Airman has an obligation to prevent and stop any harmful or demeaning conduct toward fellow Airmen. This is especially true for commanders.”
Investigators found that the airmen in the squadrons saw “rolling up” as a sort of bonding activity but that participation was more based on peer pressure. Bishop said hazing has no place in the organization.
“There are traditions that promote the health of the unit and link us to the long blue line of Airmen that have preceded us,” Bishop said. “When Airmen, however, attempt to equate hazing actions as tradition, they do an absolute disservice to our Air Force culture and also undermine our mission effectiveness.”
Officials have appointed new acting squadron commanders: Lt. Col. Todd Davis in the 5th ASOS, and Lt. Col. James Marlow in the 3rd ASOS.