Morale: The Fornication Lamp Is Lit

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January 4, 2011: After nearly two decades of effort to ban sex in the combat zone, an American commander has admitted defeat and issued orders de-criminalizing fornication in Afghanistan. Thus the latest version of General Order No. 1 issued in Afghanistan warns against heterosexual sex between troops, but no longer prohibits it. Since the 1990s, when American peacekeepers were sent to the Balkans, American commanders have been enforcing General Order Number 1. That means imposing a "no booze, no sex" rule on troops in a combat zone. The alcohol prohibitions apply on or off base, as do the prohibitions on sex, marrying locals or even gambling. Troops are encouraged to spend more time in the gym, or with their video games. Troops having sex with each other was generally tolerated, unofficially of course. Sex between troops can cause trouble, because only about ten percent of the troops in combat zones are female, and not all are single or in the mood.

One of the possible complications from this new rule is poor morale among spouses of married troops in Afghanistan, who took some comfort in the fact that General Order No.1 at least discouraged adultery. Another potential problem is more pregnancies, which sends the female troops home, leaving those left behind to take up the slack for the missing soldier. This is not good for morale.

While the troops were not happy with General Order Number 1, they adapted. But in non-combat zones, where there is no General Order Number 1, the troops continue to get in trouble with booze and sex (especially when the two go together, which often results in rape, or worse.) The difference is more stark these days because so many American troop commanders are, or have been, in combat zones.

All this is really nothing new. Such behavior modification programs have been going on for generations. Anti-smoking campaigns have been a big success, and drug testing has, for all practical purposes, eliminated drug addiction from a commanders list of "things to fret about." The U.S. Navy has recently banned any smoking aboard nuclear subs, and nervously awaits the impact on retaining scarce nuclear technicians. For over a century, the military has tried to convince the troops to not drink. Even on surface ships, the traditional command allowing smoking (the smoking lamp is lit) is not heard as much as it used to. The U.S. Navy, in 1914 (six years before Prohibition), outlawed alcohol aboard ships. Despite much grumbling, this worked, and has worked ever since. But once the sailors hit land, demon rum takes over. However, it was the navy experience with shipboard prohibition that led army generals to believe it could work in combat zones. It has, but imposing a no-alcohol rule at home is seen as not practical. Well, maybe not yet?

 

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