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Red lights in certain, seedy districts of European cities have come to mean anything but stop.

But since the Department of Defense has specifically made it a crime for U.S. troops to patronize prostitutes worldwide, those red lights could mean trouble for U.S. servicemembers.

Even though the formal order came in an Oct. 14 presidential executive order, the news was still reaching some troops stationed in Europe. In fact, two of the three services reached said there was no formal program to tell servicemembers of the change.

“It’s nothing that’s new,” said U.S. Army Europe spokesman Bob Purtiman.

Soliciting a prostitute has always been part of the Uniform Code of Military Justice’s sexual misconduct and always has been against good order and discipline, Purtiman said. With the presidential executive order, it’s just now found in another part of the UMCJ, thus, there is no need to brief soldiers in Europe, he said.

Farther south in Naples, Italy, sailors stationed there said they were not aware of the order.

“I didn’t know about it, but I’m not surprised to see it,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jimmy Fields with Naval Forces Europe. Soliciting prostitutes, Fields said, goes against good leadership.

Neither Naval Forces Europe nor Commander, 6th Fleet have formal programs to make sailors aware of the new order, but it has been covered in Navywide training programs, said Senior Chief Petty Officer Steven Galvan.

“In addition, the Navy has created an online course to enhance basic awareness of the prohibitions against trafficking in persons,” he said.

Galvan said the command is unaware of any cases of sailors in Europe being charged with soliciting a prostitute since the October order. Commands, he said, would normally handle these cases in a nonjudicial setting, and no requirement exists to report these individual cases up the chain of command.

Asked on Monday about how the Air Force was letting airmen know of the new order, officials at U.S. Air Forces in Europe failed to respond by deadline.

Airman 1st Class Joshua Van Ness, who is stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, said he was unaware of the legal change but said it will not affect him because he does not partake in such services.

“I didn’t know if it was legal or not legal in the first place,” said Van Ness. “I just know that [prostitutes are] around here.”

On some evenings, cars or motor homes with red lights illuminating the inside can be seen parked on roads outside U.S. installations in the Kaiserslautern military community. In Germany, prostitution is legal as long as prostitutes have a license, said Christiane Lautenschläger, a spokeswoman with the Kaiserslautern Polizei.

But Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Austin, 39, a soldier with the 100th Area Support Group in Grafenwöhr, Germany, said troops should stay away from such places.

“If you are married, you shouldn’t be visiting no prostitutes,” he said. “If you are not married you shouldn’t be either. It is called safe sex.”

Stars and Stripes reporters Seth Robson and Geoff Ziezulewicz contributed to this report.


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