Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Marriage and Romance in the Army

For most soldiers "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" is the best we can do for romance in the Army. A large group of us are in some kind of committed relationship, another large group has no relationship and is not likely to discover true love among the other soldiers and civilians assigned to our base. And since we are not allowed off base, the potential candidates for Love seekers are all here on Tallil Ali Air Base. If my deployment to Germany in the 70s is any indication, the romances that flare to life among the soldiers here will burn out just as quickly.

So who does have romance on a deployment to Iraq? As it turns out the small minority of married couples (6 that I know of) among the 600 soldiers in our unit have relationships that at least allow for the possibility of real romance. They get to live together in one of the CHUs I described a few days ago. In fact, three of the couples live in the same CHU in three adjoining rooms. This is a great mercy to everyone involved. As I mentioned in several other ways, in this Socialist empire we inhabit, envy is the fastest way to corrode relationships. These couples are the dozen people among 600 of us who can have sex on a regular basis. For the rest of us, sex and alcohol can only be enjoyed during the 15 days we are on Rest and Recreation leave during this year.

The married couples here include a pair of pilots and a pair of aircraft maintenance sergeants (she outranks him in both cases) a pilot married to a crew chief and two clerks (he outranks her in these couples), plus two sergeants who I believe are mechanics and are the same rank. I asked three of the five couples (both members of the couple were present when I asked) how they felt about the other soldiers looking at them and wishing they had the same arrangement. The three women--an officer, a sergeant first class and a specialist--all answered as if from a script. They made sacrifices to be in the Army. It's not easy to be married to another soldier. If someone else wants the privilege, let them make the sacrifice. No wavering from the women.

The men were more varied. The warrant officer shrugged and smirked. He could deal with it. The young sergeant could see the problem, but was willing to take the hassle. The staff sergeant who had deployed before said he wished they ended up in tents (meaning no living together). He saw envy as a big problem--one he could deal with, but he could also give up the privilege without a big fight.

At Fort Sill and in Kuwait, the married couples were not allowed to live together. So except for the 4-day pass, the married couples were just like the rest of us for the first three months. Except that they could talk face to face. So they still got the kind of time together that most married couples say they never get enough of--time to just talk.

This whole situation is new to me. In the 1970s Army, there were no arrangements for couples to live together in combat barracks and very few soldiers married to each other. Couples in camouflage still look somewhat strange to me.