CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — A revised 2nd Infantry Division “battle buddy” policy keeps the off-post system voluntary but spells out responsibilities and potential punishments.

The policy of leaving post with at least one other person remains “highly encouraged but not mandatory,” a phrase bolded and underlined in the policy letter signed by 2nd ID commander Maj. Gen. James Coggin and issued Friday.

However, commanders O-5 and above have the authority to impose mandatory battle-buddy restrictions on soldiers as they deem necessary.

If a commander does impose a mandatory battle-buddy policy, a soldier’s failure to look after a buddy “may be considered a dereliction of duty if the soldier knowingly or negligently fails to make reasonable efforts to intervene,” according to the policy.

But soldiers must not intervene if doing so would cause “increased danger” to others, the policy says.

The policy “doesn’t mean that (a soldier) will interfere with what ROK/U.S. law enforcement is doing,” said 2nd ID Staff Judge Advocate Lt. Col. Walt Hudson in a response to an e-mail query.

When to intervene is a sticky issue for some servicemembers. In a Feb. 4 Stars and Stripes story, some servicemembers said they grapple with whether they would “stop to ask questions” if they saw their buddy in a fight or immediately jump in to do what they could.

Others said they would weigh whether their buddy was morally justified — even if an altercation involved legal authorities.

The previous battle-buddy policy version granted commanders “authority to impose further restrictions,” but the new policy specifically refers to a commander’s ability to mandate the system for all soldiers.

No battalion commanders have announced intentions of imposing a mandatory battle-buddy policy on their entire unit at this point, 2nd ID officials said.

The policy also acknowledges command authority to delegate how battle buddies are chosen and how they conduct themselves to first-line supervisors. For example, a supervisor can direct a buddy to be a “designated non-drinker,” the policy says.

Another purpose behind the policy is to provide more guidance on what a battle buddy is, Hudson said.

“He or she is not somebody simply to ‘hang out’ with socially,” Hudson said. “Your buddy, to put it informally, ‘has your back.’”

Soldiers are responsible for preventing their buddies from drinking excessively, Hudson said.

If a commander imposes a mandatory buddy policy on a soldier, that soldier can face Uniform Code of Military Justice action for not taking steps to prevent a buddy from drinking past the 0.10 blood alcohol content threshold announced last month, 2nd ID officials said.

Soldiers do not face this threat while the policy remains “highly recommended” rather than mandatory. However, many soldiers have said they feel responsible for their friends’ welfare, even without a formal policy in place.

The new battle-buddy policy follows the release last month of an alcohol policy limiting 2nd ID soldiers to a 0.10 blood alcohol concentration.

Some battalion commanders have also have ordered increased barracks restrictions in recent months. Each of these steps are at least partially geared toward limiting crime and misconduct involving alcohol, 2nd ID officials said.

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