13 September 2010

GO1: Theory and Practice

The conduct of all Americans in theatre, uniformed and civilian alike, is governed by General Order One.  This proclamation forbids the consumption of alcohol and fraternization in the interests of promoting good discipline and optimum force readiness.  With regard to the theatre Prohibition, it very overtly creates a sense of injustice.  Non-American Coalition forces are not under the same restrictions, and the Bulgarian troops are not subtle people (although I do love it when they get really toasted and start singing dancing in the middle of the afternoon).  Moreover, it's roundly violated even among the Americans; you would be amazed at what you can sneak through the mail in a Scope bottle.  Still, the MPs do make a concerted effort to minimize on-base imbibing, as they search rooms and maintain several 'amnesty boxes' in which to dispose of contraband. 


With regard to the latter, however, I'm afraid that it's not only a lost cause, but a foregone conclusion.  The rumor mill at Phoenix is perhaps the single best working piece of equipment here, as assumptions are readily made when two people of the opposite sex are together with any regularity, whether that's at the DFAC, over the pool table, or in the gym.  It's still a very hetero-normative environment, despite the surprisingly high population of pseudo-out LGBT folks I've met (admittedly, the transgendered/sexual population is seemingly non-existent, but still…).  Moonlit jaunts around the track are a particularly popular activity for 'non-couples'.  Strolling among the MRAPS is apparently the Phoenix equivalent of parking, albeit without the snogging.  Aside from the occasional exchange of knowing glances and coy double entendres, a live and let live attitude is pervasive.  The veneer of propriety is apparently all you need to survive under GO1.


Of course, this raises a whole host of potentially dramatic complications.  The imagination runs rampant with speculation.  For one, courting gifts must be fascinating, as scare commodities such as batteries, obscure candy bars, and one's favourite type of shampoo take the place of flowers.  I know of once instance in which a besotted GI offered his romantic interest shrapnel, so as to express that he was thinking of her even while being rocketed out on mission. 


Beyond such war-time twitterpation, slightly more negative eventualities beg to be considered.  For example, on such a small base as Phoenix, one can envisage the potential for mysterious STD outbreaks.  They would have to be mysterious, of course, given that no one is supposed to be having sex.  More realistically, perhaps, I have to wonder about what happens if these clandestine couples go south.  How do you quietly have a breakup when you're never alone?  Can you really write a Dear John letter to someone you'll see at the DFAC everyday for the next 6 months?  And I shudder to think about unintentional pregnancies.  Good thing, then, that the PX sells such a wide array of condoms.  No, really, they do.  There is a larger selection of prophylactics than of deodorant.


That said, there are times when these sorts of improprieties elevate from expected distractions to something more serious.   Indeed, it surprises me just how often sex infringes on force protection.  Two recent incidents with our own linguists left me bemused and dismayed at the audacity of people.  One local was fired after his military supervisor caught him in flagrante while he was supposed to be on duty.  The termination notice as entered into the database was hilariously succinct and contained of almost palatable shock: "Termination due to sexual contact with female inside work place.  Ammunition Depot!"


The other episode was substantively grimmer.  A US hired linguist carried on a relationship, culminating in a clandestine engagement, with a local linguist.  Their actions were daft in the extreme; there can be no question about that.  However, the situation became very much more alarming when I discovered she works as an interpreter in detainee interrogations.  In the unlikely event that one of his friends or relatives are picked up for questioning (unlikely because he wouldn't be hired or allowed on base if his background screening had turned up any such associations), I shudder to think what blind love might compel her to hide.  It is, to say the least, a bad scene.  To add another layer of incredulity to this already absurd story, Corporate has not yet terminated her employment.  Her local paramour is long fired, without even a second thought.  The US hire, however, brings in too much revenue to the company to get rid of that easily.  If they thought they could get away with it, Corporate would probably just transfer her.  Unfuckingbelievable.