JBER commander relieved of duty following hazing investigation

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Two Air Force squadron commanders have been relieved of command duties following hazing investigations within their units.

A statement from the 354th Fighter Wing public affairs office at Eielson Air Force Base reads: “Col. Benjamin Bishop, 354th FW commander, relieved Lt. Col. Robb Fiechtner, 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron, and Lt. Col. Joshua Cates, 5th Air Support Operations Squadron, of their squadron command positions.”

Lt. Col. Fiechtner was stationed on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, while Lt. Col. Cates was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

According to the release, the 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron located on JBER was commanding a unit at Fort Wainwright.

The statement also revealed that the investigation started in January 2019. Officials said they found that a practice known as “rolling up” - which involved tackling or restraining an airman, binding their hands or feet using duct tape, and allowing the individual to struggle before being released - was common and encouraged in two of the four squadrons.

“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.”

According to the release, many Airmen in the squadrons viewed these hazing incidents as a bonding event, but “participation was based more on peer pressure than on enjoyment of the activity.”