A few months ago, military blogger Michael Yon leveled a number of accusations against Canadian Brigadier General Daniel Bernard, the commander of Canadian (and a contingent of American) forces in Southern Afghanistan. Among them were accusations of an improper relationship with a subordinate soldier. At the time, Yon gave no further evidence to support his claim, leading me to believe that the accusation may have simply been a rumor. Such rumors seem to always be flying about during deployments.
However, as I spent the weekend in Toronto, I just happened to open today's Globe and Mail, where, lo and behold, I discovered that Michael Yon was right. General Menard was, in fact, relieved of command in Afghanistan, pending investigation into an inappropriate relationship with a fellow soldier. This is in addition to Menard's recent reprimand for negligently discharging his C-8 rifle, resulting in a fine of $3,500.
Both incidents are serious. The case of the negligent weapons discharge is an obvious safety violation, and requires little discussion. Let's move on to the case of fraternization, and the larger issues of sex during deployments.
The Globe and Mail also ran an article describing the ubiquity of sex in combat zones. While various regulations forbid sexual contact between service members in Iraq and Afghanistan--the US Military's General Order #1 being one of the most famous--the truth of the matter is that these regulations are not always enforced. After all, GO1 (as it's frequently called) forbids pornography; God knows nearly every soldier deployed with at least 60 gigabytes of porn.
Truth be told, most commanders have accepted the fact that sex will occur during deployments, and thus, simply take steps to educate troops on the dangers of unprotected sex as well as make birth control readily available. While some might be quick to generalize this as a symptom of a "hypersexualized" culture, let's not forget that America's Greatest Generation was described as "over paid, over sexed, and over here" during their stint in England. Human beings have always been fascinated with sex.
Yet, sex in combat zones is not entirely without consequences. As I've complained before, far too many female troops are leaving combat zones pregnant (sometimes intentionally), forcing their comrades to work longer or undermanned shifts. Moreover, relationships between service members of different ranks--particularly within the same organization--can often result in coercion or conflicts of interest. While I'm not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, these sorts of behavior do impact morale and discipline within an organization, and should be dealt with accordingly.
General Menard will be replaced, temporarily, by his predecessor, Brig. Gen. John Vance.
The Small Wars Council has some good commentary on the issue.