Boogie nights end early for some troops in Europe
March 28, 2003
The Cinderella Rule is in effect for soldiers in Italy. Since war began last week, some 4,500 soldiers based there have been under orders to either be home by midnight or inside a military installation.
However, for airmen in Italy, the rules are different. At Aviano Air Base, for example, the Air Force’s main hub in Italy, a new curfew prohibits troops from being only at nightclubs, discos and bars after midnight. Everything else is fair game.
For sailors in Italy, there are no changes to off-limits areas or curfews. If they want, sailors can party all night long.
By varying degrees — some great, some small, some not all — local commanders throughout Europe are making changes to how troops can live their off-duty lives now that America is at war.
“Commanders have the flexibility to do as they see fit,” said Lt. Cmdr. Rick Haupt, spokesman for U.S. forces in Europe.
“They are given guidance from higher authority but ultimately they are responsible for the people and assets under their command.”
Taking prudent measures to protect soldiers’ lives always has been a function of good leadership. But even within individual services, there are differences on what prudent looks like — even within the same communities.
Take Heidelberg, for example, home of the Army’s headquarters for Europe.
Soldiers with the 43rd Signal Battalion based there have been ordered to steer clear of all nightclubs and watering holes — at any hour.
“Direct soldiers not to go to off-post bars and clubs until further notice,” wrote Col. Hubert Newman, commander of the 2nd Signal Brigade in a March 19 e-mail to the leaders of his three communications battalions, including the 43rd and two more units in Kitzingen and Hanau.
“Encourage civilians and family members to abide by the same restriction.”
For the Army, such orders are usually the purview of Base Support Battalion commanders. That’s why for other soldiers in Heidelberg, there are no new restrictions.
“For the Heidelberg community, the policy right now is pretty clear,” said Lt. Col. Earl Teeter, the Heidelberg BSB commander. “There are no civilian areas off-limits to soldiers.
“We are constantly re-evaluating the situation and will make changes to that guidance when and if necessary.”
Gen. B.B. Bell, commander of Army forces in Europe, has authorized commanders to issue temporary curfews and off-limits orders, according his spokesman, Col. Carl Kropf.
“The tactical commanders have substantial discretion in establishing off-limits areas, temporarily, during emergency situations, in order to protect the force,” added Millie Waters, a spokeswoman for Army forces in Europe.
That’s exactly what Col. Michael Tucker, commander of the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Brigade, did two weeks ago when he declared an entire Frankfurt-area pub district off limits after some of his soldiers clashed with Iranians in the area.
“Whenever I’m convinced that my soldiers are going in harm’s way, I’m going to do things to prevent it,” said Tucker, who explained his concerns were a mixture of fear over possible terrorism attacks and old-fashioned trouble magnets.
“I was stationed in Germany when the La Belle Disco got hit in Berlin,” said Tucker, referring to the 1986 terrorist attack that killed three people, including two GIs, and wounded around 230 people. “I don’t want to see that again.
“It’s certainly OK for soldiers to go downtown and have a good time, but I also believe in the saying that bad things happen to good people after midnight,” he said. “When a certain area or club starts to create a template of activity that soldiers can get in harm’s way there, I’m obliged by my duty as commander to act and try to prevent them from being harmed.”
That’s why Tucker signed another order putting the Studio Club in Friedberg off limits Wednesday. After several confrontations between his troops and local Turks angry about the war in Iraq, Tucker said enough was enough.
In Turkey itself, on the doorstep to the war in Iraq, troops at Incirlik Air Base are restricted to base at all times.
“Personnel are only allowed to leave on official business,” said Maj. Toni Kemper, Incirlik spokeswoman.
In Naples, Italy, sailors are free to exercise their own judgment.
“There are no specific limitations,” said Lt. Susan Henson, a Navy spokeswoman in Naples, “but we are encouraging people to avoid potential problem areas, such as protests.”
All of the Navy’s major installations in Europe — including Rota, Spain, and Sigonella, Sicily — are using the same approach.
The bottom line, said Henson, is that sailors should “use common sense to keep themselves safe.”
The Army and Air Force are offering more guidance, again differing on where you are.
At Aviano, for example, Air Force personnel must steer clear of bars and nightclubs from midnight to 6 a.m., said Capt. Joe Macri, an Aviano spokesman.
For soldiers in Italy, “there is currently a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m.,” said Lt. Col. David Lawson, executive officer for the 22nd Area Support Group, which oversees troops in Italy.
In addition, he said, soldiers are not permitted to wear uniforms off post. “Soldiers coming to and from work are required to wear civilian clothes and at any other time they’re off post,” said Lawson. Even PT uniforms outside the gates are forbidden.
For airmen based at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base, it’s another approach altogether. New orders say personnel there must stay away from gatherings of 50 or more Americans, said Darlene Cowsert, an Air Force spokeswoman. That includes not only bars and discos, but also off-base churches and other social gatherings, she said.
The thousands of Army soldiers in the Ramstein area have been told to follow the same guidelines, until a new security review is completed, say officials.
“No additional places are off limits, but we are relooking all of our off-post activities to ensure safety of our soldiers and family members,” said Lt. Col. Mike Corley, operations officer for the 21st Theater Support Command, which is responsible for many of the soldiers in the Ramstein area.
“We’re looking at all of our potential soft spots and backdoors to make sure we have none,” he said, adding that as a result of that review “definitive guidance” is expected soon.
“We’re looking at all types of places from clubs and restaurants to flea market and churches, anywhere Americans might be targeted.”