The definition of "hazing in the military" is: the misuse of the superior's power by violating human dignity. Sometimes, it may be hard to draw a line between standard practice and hazing, but the difference is the intent. Orders necessary for military training is not hazing, but just about everything else is. Without a reasonable cause, there should not be any "punishment". Modern hazing, or pennalism, was originated in German universities as far as from the 17th century. It was always a rite of initiation.
Many armies are notorious for their severe hazing, such as the Russian army, where 300(!) conscripts a year die as a result of hazing. The second-year conscripts bully, assault, torture and humiliate the recruits: Russians call this dedovshchina, "the rule of the grandfathers". They even collect protection money in sums of e.g. $170 a month. Another place famous for hazing is the French Foreign Legion. Practices such as kicking, beating and pinning are common in the corrupt armies of the world. This is detrimental to overall morale and effectively sacrificing a part of the recruit population.
Although hazing has been reduced to single incidents in the Finnish army, some traditions have been reported. Here are some examples of traditions from the Finnish army. The one who does the hazing is most frequently an underofficer, less frequently an conscript officer, a senior soldier of the same rank or a commissioned officer on payroll. This is fairly simple to explain: the underofficers are the closest to the rank and file with any official authority, and because in general hazing stems from insecurity, which the junior leaders are likely to experience. Most Finnish army hazing traditions trace back to military academies in Tsarist Russia. Before independence, that was where many Finnish officers were trained, especially the cavalry and artillery officers. Thus, in the cavalry and artillery hazing was the most common. In contrast, the branches whose founding officers were trained in the German Jaeger Battalion 27, such the Engineer and Communications troops, are almost pure of hazing. Fortunately, hazing has become unacceptable, but there are always these legendary stories about "when I was young", mostly from the 1950's.
One common practice is to make the subordinate shout something bad about himself. For example, this was the first dialogue between a recruit and the superior:
- Recruit, you are dickhead. What are you, recruit?
- A dickhead, sir!
A common practice even today in the artillery is this: if someone slips even slightly from the weapons safety
code, he is made to shout in front of the battery
that he is the "most dangerous man of the battery
Elaborate mockeries of real situations are a common theme. For example, the standard of cleanliness is very high, and even small slips from it get excessive attention. One example is the "ice-age boulder":
A superior finds a sanding stone under a bed. He declares it's a "boulder", and thus orders about four men to carry it outside.
Another one is of the same theme - I've heard this from two sources. No matter how ridiculous it gets, laughing is forbidden and severely punished.
A dust bunny is found under a bed. Keeping dust bunnies in the barracks is verboten. It is declared an "enemy", so that the entire battery is called into full combat readiness: "Equipment - Complete battle gear. Enemy observed under bed 2." Then, the dust bunny is cornered and shot: "Distance fife meters, attention, fire!" After the "enemy" has been eliminated, it has to be buried. A "grave digging squad" is assigned with digging a 2 by 2 by 2 m grave pit behind the barracks. Because of "the hot weather", the burial ceremony is held at midnight. The "body" is carried with a canvas by the due eight men to its "final resting place". As it is due, a burial ceremony complete with singing a psalm is held. After the song, there is an obituary, which takes 10 minutes to read.
Borderline pennalism is practices such as orders to run around an object a distance away or do push-ups as a punishment. It may be necessary training, but it becomes questionable when more time is spent with the punishment than with the training ordered by the commissioned officers. For example, one incident involved running around a link mast, which was at a distance of a kilometer. There is a lesson taught by many practices: the neat and tidy bunk is an essential part of the soldier's tidiness, so a shoddily made bed is "blown up" by the superiors to be made again. I've witnessed this go into extreme elaboration: for example, the bedspread is tied into giant knot, which is hid into the locker. The "training" has to be related to the authorized program, however. A more serious breach of discipline is to hold unauthorized drills, with ordering such "battle gear" that isn't part of the training, like swimming trunks, a gas mask and those Nokia boots.
Newer forms of pennalism are mostly about clowning around with the recruits. For example:
"Dalton brothers": four recruits line up at a door such that four heads atop each other show at the door, like Daltons in Lucky Luke.
"Jukebox": recruits are ordered to hide in their lockers, and when the sergeant kicks a locker, the recruits comes out and sings a song.
"Tennis event": recruits turn their heads back and forth to follow an imaginary game of tennis.
A mild, but amusing form of pulling a prank on the recruits is to give nonsensical orders, such as tell the recruit to get something, say a length of firing line. In the navy, there's the "key to the wakewater tank". In communications, the favorites are "radio link tightener" or "radio link cutoff pliers". A confusing command can be for example like this: "500 steps to the right only taking the first, go!" The U.S. military equivalents are under the titles Air Force newbie jokes and Navy Newbie Jokes.
(suom. linkkijänteen kiristin, linkkijänteen katkaisupihdit; "link arc" the distance two stations communicating)
Laiho, Pentti: Simputuksesta Puolustusvoimissa. http://www.ilmatorjuntaupseeriyhdistys.fi/2_97/simputus01.htm
Kohonen, Leo: Asevelvollisuusaika -53. http://www.saunalahti.fi/leok/rukkurssi.htm
Moscow News: Human Rights Watch Asks Russian Govt to Fight Army Hazing http://www.mosnews.com/news/2004/10/20/hazing.shtml
Niilo Paasivirta's collection of army pranks. http://www.co.jyu.fi/~np/pjokes/varusmies.html