I did not like the tone of this Stars & Stripes article that insinuates that servicemembers should not drink alcohol at unit gatherings:
In recent years, the military has tried to shift away from alcohol, letting troops know “it’s OK not to drink,” Colston said.
Charles Gould, program manager for the Navy’s substance abuse rehabilitation program, said commanders on Navy ships try to alleviate the emphasis on alcohol during port calls by flying in people from the ports to talk about nonalcoholic recreational activities that sailors can participate in and tours they can take. They’ve also changed the culture at official events, he said, partly by changing the rules so funding can’t be used for alcohol.
Still, the tone varies by command, said Cmdr. Rosemary Malone, the Navy director of psychological health.
Malone said a friend of hers is assigned to a unit in which the Friday night routine is usually “mandatory fun” at a bar — in which officers are expected to throw back a few beers with their co-workers and commander with an eye toward unit cohesion.
“That doesn’t necessarily send the best message,” Malone said. “And what happens with that, too, is your officers who are asked to go, it sends this message to the enlisted (sailors) that, ‘Hey, look at these guys, there’s nothing wrong with that.’ It is important to lead by example, and there’s been that push, especially with alcohol, to try to do that.” [Stars & Stripes]
So now it is wrong for servicemembers to voluntarily go to a bar with co-workers? If anything this should be encouraged as long as it is voluntary. In my experience these type of get togethers were actually more frequent before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began. It seems to me they are less now because servicemembers in units spend so much time together training and then on deployment they rather spend time with their families once back home than with their co-workers.
As far as young servicemembers and binge drinking, I think it is nothing different than what goes on at college campuses every weekend. Young people are going to experiment and drink alcohol just like the people launching the criticism against them now probably did when they were younger. When it comes to alcohol people need to consume it in a safe environment and that is why getting together as a group is better than just one or two servicemembers going to a random bar by themselves. Discouraging servicemembers from drinking together as a group I think actually increases the likelihood of incidents happening.
So what does everyone else think? Should units no longer have gatherings that have alcohol? By the way everyone have fun and drink responsibly this New Year’s Eve. Cheers!