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CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Recent measures limiting alcohol intake throughout the 2nd Infantry Division and in some cases imposing barracks restrictions are not mass punishment, according to the commanding general.

Maj. Gen. James Coggin’s Feb. 8 policy letter limiting 2nd ID soldiers in South Korea to a .10 blood alcohol concentration is “mass protection” from ruined careers and potential crime, he told Stars and Stripes this week in an interview. “I do not see it as a form of punishment in all candor,” Coggin said.

Some soldiers have questioned the policy’s effect on morale, especially when added to the nightly curfew, inability to own a vehicle and other Area I restrictions already in place.

When asked about the policy, Coggin pointed to a guide that was distributed and shows how much a soldier could still drink.

A 160-pound soldier can still have four drinks per hour and remain under the .10 threshold, according to the guide.

“I think (soldiers) can have a good time without getting totally incapacitated,” Coggin said.

However, the policy letter also explains the guide is not an official measurement. Factors including body composition, food intake, age and hormone levels can affect blood alcohol concentration. How the policy will be enforced also has raised concerns among some soldiers. When asked whether a soldier with an otherwise spotless record could potentially have his career ruined by criminal charges after drinking past the limit, Coggin said that such action wasn’t the point of the new policy.

The policy is an attempt to get leaders and soldiers more involved when they see a soldier who is, for example, stumbling around drunk and out of control.

“I don’t want them to walk past that,” Coggin said. “I want them to take care of that soldier.”

Nevertheless, the policy clearly states that it is punitive and that violators can be subject to court-martial.

Whether to pursue that route depends on the individual case, Coggin said. “But in my experience, good leaders resort to that as an option of last resort,” Coggin said.

Counseling, intervention or even just “chewing out” a soldier could be more appropriate in some cases, he said.

Coggin emphasized he is the convening authority who ultimately decides whether to pursue court-martial charges.

The program will be evaluated after 90 days. Coggin said he did not have any quantitative measurement in mind that would determine the policy’s success, such as a percentage drop in assaults or blotter incidents.

In addition to the alcohol policy, soldiers throughout 2nd ID have seen various changes to their barracks policies.

The 2nd Aviation Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment recently restricted its soldiers at K-16 Air Base in south Seoul from having members of the opposite sex in their dorm rooms. The move came after an alleged sexual assault.

Other units have had limits placed on how late they may have others in their room, regardless of gender. Coggin said he would not issue uniform rules for barracks, instead relying on commanders to make determinations on what their units need.

“Each command climate has to be assessed on its own merits,” he said. For now, that means commanders have discretion to do what they need to do to prevent alcohol-related crime.

Coggin said he understood that might make some soldiers unhappy. However, it’s ultimately in their professional interests, and in the interest of the Army’s ability to respond to any potential threat from North Korea, he said.

“They may not like what I’m trying to do, but I’m trying to look out for their best interests,” he said.

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