In a move that will undoubtedly be celebrated by soldiers everywhere, the army is considering removing alcohol restrictions from the barracks.
The idea came from the Army’s recent flagship sergeants summit in El Paso, Texas, where service leaders considered new ways to deal with old problems. One of the topics of conversation was creating a positive alcohol culture in the military, which several senior service enlisted leaders said they needed to work on.
“The intent, first right after the bat, was [to] We ask ourselves, “Do we have the right culture we want in the military for alcohol?” Army Major Michael Greenstone told Task & Purpose last week. “I think that was a fair question, and I think the majority of people said ‘Yes, we need to take this and do something about it. ”
It was decided after the summit that one unit within the Army Forces Command, which had yet to be determined, would be the guinea pig of the new approach.
One of the first things that emerged when examining the issue of alcohol culture, Greenstone said, was whether restricting alcohol in the barracks fueled that negative culture. He said it was a “fun way to look at it.” While policies vary by installation, some restrictions are limited to either one 12 cans of beer, two 750ml bottles of wine, or one 750ml bottle of liquor per soldier in their barracks room.
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However, these current restrictions have not reduced alcohol abuse in the military. A study published by the Sage Journal this year and shared by the RAND Corporation stated that “excessive drinking poses a serious threat to enforce readiness” across the military. But the study also pointed to some key aspects of “alcohol culture,” meaning that co-workers can view drinking together as a “means of bonding and building group cohesion.” The study also examined a previous report on alcohol culture among college athletes and their coaches – when coaches are perceived to approach alcohol with a sense of “interested communication,” that is, when they create a culture open to discussions about alcohol and college athletes “report less alcohol use overall and heavy drinking on the periods.”
“The implementation had little to do with alcohol consumption,” the report said.
Greenstone said Friday that he views deregulation as an idea that aligns with a book the Great Censors Summit talked about last year: upstreamby Dan Heath. The idea of the book is to look at solving problems before they happen.
The source of this is ‘Do we have an alcohol culture in the military?’ ” Downstream, when you look at suicide, how many people were drinking before they picked up the gun? When you look at sexual assault, how many people had drunk before the sexual assault?” Greenstone said. “So back to last year’s topic upstream, and then fast forward this year, when we look at a lot of our suicides and sexual assaults, we find that they drink alcohol. This leads to, “If we did better with responsible drinking, would we have fewer suicides and sexual assaults?”
Command Sgt. Major Raymond Kittugua Jr., the commander in chief of the Army’s chemical forces at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, told Stars and Stripes that lifting alcohol restrictions could really lead to fewer discipline problems.
The soldiers say, ‘Because I know I can only keep that much alcohol in my barracks when I’m at the tavern, I’ll drink as much as I can as fast as I can because I can’t keep drinking in my barracks because you don’t want me to have enough there. Not to mention the double standards to allow soldiers who live out of their positions to be free of restrictions.
“The only change is that someone has a dependent, which allows them to live off the job, while others don’t,” he told Stripes.
The idea of banning alcohol in the barracks is reminiscent of an idea from US Forces Korea in 2019, which proposed ending the midnight curfew for service members. US Forces Korea commanders used a 90-day trial run to see if service personnel could handle a curfew-free presence in South Korea, in an effort to make the deployment more attractive for future missions. In the end, it was decided to cancel the curfew.
While the intent of changing to alcohol restrictions may be different from that in Korea, both seem to boil down to: What would happen if we trusted our forces to be responsible?
Greenstone said Army officials who take the lead in figuring out which unit will test the new policy and for how long will return later this month with a plan at the monthly summit held between Grinston and his service sergeant major. And while removing alcohol restrictions may be what soldiers are most interested in, it’s not the only idea Army leaders came up with in June to address current problems facing the service.
They are exploring the idea of performance-based financial incentives to re-enlist and give more days to soldiers who do so. One working group emerging from the top is looking for more opportunities for mentorship, specifically among non-commissioned officers. And in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, commanding sergeant. Major T.J. Holland of the 18th Airborne Corps oversees a new approach to the care of soldiers receiving inpatient behavioral health care.
Greenstone said he was “really proud” of the sergeant who came to the top ready to seek innovative ideas for how to tackle difficult issues. Similar to the monthly summit Grinston held with them, they moved away from the military’s risk-averse culture, eager to try things out to see what would happen rather than spend years studying an approach before actually implementing it.
“I think it’s really good to put an idea on the table, let’s test it, and then we can measure it and figure out who owns it. Then we’ll look at it next month and go Oh, that’s getting momentum, maybe we’ll scale it up…so as we grow it at some point, we can To go, we need to do it for the whole army. And we don’t have to wait two years. And we’ll stay every month, Do these things work? Do they not work? Can we grow up? Or do we just need to get rid of it?” said Greenstone.
Does this approach work? Does Greenstone believe there are ideas emerging from these monthly meetings that would make a difference on issues such as suicide, sexual assault and harassment?
He said, “Yes.” “definitely.”
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