Policy on sexual activity varies from unit to unit
September 2, 2005
MOSUL, Iraq — Save the Lee Greenwood and Toby Keith anthems for the homecoming.
During their deployment, the request line for some married soldiers serving together in Iraq would more fittingly include tunes such as “(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones or “Sexual Healing” by the late Marvin Gaye.
General Order No. 1, which, among other conduct issues, prohibits soldiers from drinking alcohol while deployed, also covers sexual activity.
The policy on sex varies from unit to unit, but for the 94th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy) and its attached unit, the 535th Engineer Company (Combat Support Equipment), the policy is no sex at all, whether married or single.
But in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Jerry O’Hara, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-76, said there is no policy against married servicemembers in the task force sharing quarters. In fact, he said the command allows that to happen “to the extent possible.”
To make matters worse for soldiers in Iraq, Army regulations prohibit soldiers from kissing, hugging or holding hands in public while in uniform — and soldiers deployed to Iraq are always in either desert camouflage or physical training uniforms. All soldiers share tents with fellow troops; therefore, they are always in the public eye.
For the seven married soldier couples deployed together here, well, “Love Hurts.”
“It makes it hard to take when you talk to married couples in other units here, and they are allowed to live together,” said 1st Lt. Heather Sprowls, of the 535th Engineers.
While some units may make provisions for married soldiers to live together and engage in sexual activity, the 94th opted to make it abstinence across the board.
“To be fair and equitable, it had to apply to everybody,” said Lt. Col. Alfred Pantano, battalion commander. There are 14 married soldiers deployed together to Iraq, but there are more than 600 soldiers in all from the battalion.
The reasoning behind the policy is to maintain combat readiness.
“If a female soldier gets pregnant and has to be redeployed [to Germany] — which is the standard — then that cuts away at our combat power,” Pantano said. He checked with Task Force Freedom, which his battalion supports, and with the judge advocate general’s office before implementing the policy to ensure it was both legal and enforceable, he said.
Now seven months into the deployment, the soldiers seem to have accepted the policy.
“We have a lot of other things that we need to concentrate on and focus on in Iraq for that policy to be that big of an issue,” said Spc. Ivan Andreli, of the 535th Engineers. “I can deal with it, if we can see each other. That’s more than most married soldiers get when they are deployed.”
However, they still aren’t happy with General Order No. 1. Most of them have been married two years or less and haven’t really been able to set up house between their two deployments to Iraq.
As newlyweds, they are living through a yearlong, old-fashioned courtship.
“Heather and I live two buildings away from each other,” said 1st Lt. Joshua Sprowls, of the 94th Engineers. “We get to see each other, but as far as a normal married life goes, it doesn’t exist here.”
Now in their fourth year of marriage, Sgt. 1st Class Norrine Gladney and Sgt. Marc Gladney, both of the 94th Engineers, are an old married couple compared to the others, and the stress of the deployment sometimes makes them fight like one.
“We argue more here than we do at home and over stupid little things,” Norrine Gladney said. “It’s just the stress of the deployment and the frustration. I can’t hug him or kiss him; I can’t do the things a wife likes to do for her husband.”
Like any Army policy, it’s the law of the land and meant to be followed. But there are some unique situations where the command gives a little slack.
“I warned my first sergeant that I was going to lose my military bearing for a minute when I saw my husband again and give him a great big hug,” said Spc. Dawn Andreli, of the 535th Engineers. She and Spc. Ivan Andreli had been separated for four of the deployment’s first seven months, because they were working on projects at different remote locations.
The soldiers didn’t comment on how strictly they follow the policy, and it’s not like the command is waiting in the shadows to spot a brief embrace or a quick kiss.
“I’m not interested in trying to regulate matters of the heart,” Pantano said. “But I have to make sure we can support our mission, and that I honor everybody’s rights. We are not watching around every corner to see what they’re doing. We’ve got missions to accomplish. Every time you have to deal with personnel matters like inappropriate conduct, it draws the command’s focus away from other things that, quite frankly, are more important. It’s a distraction.”
So until they can go on rest and recuperation leave or until they redeploy in about five months, the soldiers have to look for nonphysical ways to be passionate.
“I’m happy if I can just look at her and sit beside her for a few hours a day,” said Spc. Seth Dominique of his wife, Spc. Sally Dominique, both of the 94th Engineer Battalion. “I can live with the [policy] as long I have that to get me through the day-to-day here.”