Morale: Fighter Pilots Forced To Fly Sober

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June 3, 2011: Britain recently imposed a temporary alcohol ban on Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel serving in the Mediterranean (largely those involved with Libya flights). This was the result of two RAF Typhoon pilots found to be drinking heavily a few hours before they were due to fly a mission over Libya. The two pilots were sent back to Britain, shortly after they were caught, at the end of March. The pilots were part of an RAF detachment operating 12 Tornados and six Typhoons from an Italian air base.  British pilots are accustomed to have a few (or more) drinks after a mission, but regulations forbid flight crew from taking off while intoxicated (or anywhere near that state).

U.S. military personnel don't have this problem. Since 1914, alcohol has been banned from U.S. warships. Since the 1990s, the U.S. Army has banned the use of alcohol in combat zones, and the air force went along with the ban. One expected side effect was a sharp drop in alcohol related disciplinary problems. That meant fewer cases of U.S. troops getting in trouble with local civilians. Far fewer brawls, murders and rapes. But there were still problems with alcohol and drugs, often provided by local civilians. However, a 70 percent drop in disciplinary cases was appreciated. There were even sharper drops in the number of assaults and murders. Obviously, the use of alcohol has not been completely eliminated in the combat zone, but it has to be obtained (from locals, or stills run by troops) and consumed clandestinely. That alone greatly reduces the amount alcohol related misbehavior.

Other NATO forces do not impose such bans, but feel the additional disciplinary problems are worth it because of the higher morale.

 

 


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