SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — In an effort to stamp out the “cancer” that is hazing, the Marine Corps has updated its hazing policy to include more officer accountability as well as information and instruction for those affected, Marine officials said this week.

Gen. James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, ordered an update to the 1997 policy in an attempt to bring the Marine Corps in line with Navy guidance and to rein in what he called a “leadership issue” following several high-profile cases of hazing in the ranks.

Military leaders were on Capitol Hill on Thursday to discuss hazing with members of the House Armed Services Committee on Military Personnel. At that hearing, Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., pleaded for an end to the culture of hazing.

The new Marine Corps policy now defines hazing as “any conduct whereby a military member or members, regardless of service or rank, without proper authority causes another military member or members to suffer or be exposed to any activity which is cruel, abusive, humiliating, oppressive, demeaning or harmful.”

Marines undertake extensive anti-hazing training in boot camp, at their specialized schools, and through annual training requirements, according to Marine spokesman Capt. Kevin Schultz.

This, however, has not stopped hazing from creeping back time and time again like a “cancer,” Amos said.

“I required all of my general officers, all my commanding officers, to immediately put their attention and their leadership fingerprints on the matter of hazing to eradicate it,” Amos told the Senate Armed Services Committee during a budget hearing March 15. “This is a leadership issue. Clearly, I’m not happy with it.”

Amos also sent out a strongly worded statement to all Marines.

“It’s absolutely, without exception, unacceptable behavior and if found out, it is my full intention to prosecute it in every case,” Amos told the committee.

In addition to the anti-hazing training, commanding officers and officers-in-charge now will be required to ensure all personnel are familiar with current policy and to provide appropriate annual training.

The updated policy also includes reporting instructions for “substantiated incidents,” hazing examples, and information for victims and witnesses, Schultz said.

No whistle-blower protections were added to the existing order because Marines already fall under federal protections, according to Schultz.

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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Okinawa for Stars and Stripes since 2014. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the newspaper. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.

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