19 May 2009

Question from my fans, answered indirectly

Every once and I while I get to kill two birds with one stone by combining two posts into one. The impetus for this post came from a gentleman named Roger from Scandanavia, who wanted to know if drug use among Soldiers was as much of a problem now as it was in the 1970s (the short answer is no. Drug use is relatively rare thanks to random urinalysis and the end of the draftee system.)

His question, however, led me to thinking about this post made on TaskForceMountain.com back in January.

Major General Michael Oates, the commander of the 10th Mountain Division, made a post on the discussion board portion of his blog at Task Force Mountain.com which spurred some discussion about the activities that Soldiers have in Iraq. Surprisingly, there were a few who groaned at the fact that Soldiers on forward operating bases in Iraq and Afghanistan get to partake in Wii tournaments, Salsa classes, and Texas Hold 'Em tournaments.

I guess that, based on the complaints, there must be a significant portion of the population that wants to return to the good old days of the Vietnam War, where Soldiers got to pass the time with drugs, alcohol and prostitutes. I thought all of those commercials on TV were supposed to get you to develop your "anti-drug". What if your anti-drug is a Wii tournament--which, by the way, can actually be quite a workout.

Before we deployed, I told my Soldiers that they needed to pick up some sort of hobby. In an environment like this, there's bound to be free time (just watch the movie "Jarhead"). I suggested to my Soldiers that, instead of wasting their time watching TV or playing video games--or worse yet, sitting around and being depressed--that they spend doing something productive. Really, anything would do. My recommendations were, obviously, taking some college classes online, reading, or working out. Basically, I challenged them to leave Iraq better than when they first arrived. Many of them will.

Keeping the mind busy is a great way to beat depression. If Soldiers want to spend their time participating in Wii tournaments with their friends, hey, it's healthy fun. If they want to hold a Texas Hold 'Em tournament, are they really wasting government funds? All they need are a few decks of cards and some poker chips--that's it. It's certainly no more expensive than a lot of other things the government wastes money on.

There are a number of different clubs and groups available on the larger bases--you can usually find Soldiers with any one of a number of interests gathering. For example, I like to run long distance. Thankfully for me, I can usually find a running event about once a month that will not only introduce me to new people, but also score me a free T-shirt. Best of all, the clubs hardly cost anything--they're usually organized by Soldiers in their free time.

If we're going to have a General Order Number One which bans alcohol, sex, and yes, even porn--which, when you look at American military history, is damned near unprecedented--can't our Soldiers at least fill the void with a Wii tournament or a fun run?

1 comment:

SJ said...

Reminds me of another friend in Iraq who wrote weekly newsletters home. However, while he would write a couple of paragraphs on the life of an attache, he would write pages commenting on the books he read and the blog entries he wrote. We would joke whether he really was in a battlefield or just hiding somewhere in the US.