Friday, December 18, 2015
"Don't drink! Don't watch porn! Don't commit adultery!" These warnings were at the top of the list of the many warnings soldiers received on their way to deployment in Iraq. I got a half-dozen of these briefings during training for deployment in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and in Kuwait before we actually flew to Iraq.
These briefings were always ironic, sometimes funny. In 2009 I wrote about one briefing by our 25-year-old company commander who told the married guys about keeping their wedding vows. He was not married, but he did have a girlfriend. His lecture is here.
Of course, the hookup culture on the big bases in Iraq was as vibrant as on a college campus. What the Army was trying to stop was the very common and toxic relationships in which a young enlisted woman becomes the deployment girlfriend of a senior sergeant or officer.
More senior officers than that young commander were more gentle in their warnings. They said don't sleep with other soldiers. They could not say watch porn when you are horny, but twisted themselves in verbal knots to suggest the trouble you would get into for porn was much less than for sleeping with another soldier. That lecture is here. In that blog post, I mention General Order #1. One of the stern briefings we received was from General David Petraeus on video telling us we better not commit adultery or it will end our careers! Turned out it was true in his case.
For the tens of thousands of soldiers lectured by Petraeus, the general's downfall for adultery was sadly funny. Even more funny because the title of the biography written by his lover is "All In."
But the oddest thing for someone like me who served in the 70s was how different the moral lectures were during the Cold War and the Viet Nam War. As I wrote yesterday, the main warning on bases in Europe was "Sleep NATO."
No one expected 20-year-olds to be paragons during the draft or the post-draft volunteer Army.
When I first re-enlisted, I called my best friend. We were both tank commanders in West Germany in the late 70s. I said at the time in 2007 that Petraeus and I were about the same age when we were joking about what it meant that I was a 54-year-old enlisted man. Abel said, "That's right Gussie, you Petraeus both have college degrees, you are both in the Army, except he's a success and your 54-year-old Spec. 4." Four years later we were joking about how I was a sergeant and Petraeus was a civilian.
But the best line I heard on this whole topic was from a 52-year-old sergeant who was missing several teeth and did not like to wear his dentures. After one of the morality lectures this sergeant turned to me with a toothless grin and said, "This ain't about us Gussman. It's about those young bucks."
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