Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Soldiers and their sex lives

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You can get condoms, as many as you want, for free at military dispensaries in Kandahar Airfield, but using them is another matter.

The Canadian Defence Department, along with most other military organizations in the theatre, has strict rules against fraternization and personal relations between (or within) the sexes.

It "can have detrimental effects on unit operation effectiveness due to potential threats to the security, morale, cohesion and discipline of a unit," according to Defence Administrative Order Directive 5019-1.

Most soldiers understand rules are meant to be obeyed, but the law against sex, or even kissing and holding hands, has been one of the hardest to uphold.

It may not seem like there's much room for intimate relations on the crowded base (military police and surveillance are everywhere and soldiers are almost certain to get caught visiting the quarters of the opposite sex), but then the libido is one of nature's most powerful forces and there are hundreds of unlocked vehicles and other nooks and crannies for a moment of intimacy.

It's not known if any Canadian soldiers have got pregnant in the field, but some women from other countries have been sent home because of pregnancy.

It's likely young soldiers caught in the act have merely been warned, but several Canadian officers have not been so lucky.

The second-in-command of HMCS Moncton was relieved of her duties earlier this year and reassigned to a desk job following an investigation into allegations of inappropriate conduct. Col. Bernard Ouellette was relieved of his command with the UN mission in Haiti for an inappropriate relationship, though it didn't involve another soldier. A captain with Lord Strathcona's Horse in Edmonton was also reprimanded this year and fined $2,000 over an affair with a subordinate while in Cyprus following his tour in Afghanistan.

These officers still have their jobs, although their careers have been severely tarnished.

The most serious case of alleged fraternization, however, involves Brig. Gen. Dan Menard, who was Canada's top soldier in Afghanistan until he, too, was charged this year with having an illicit affair with a subordinate. He is also charged with obstructing justice for allegedly asking the young woman to deny the affair.

Menard has announced he will resign from the military Dec. 17, but he still faces a court martial and possibly a jail term, if convicted.

The challenge the military faces in controlling relations between the sexes is unique to our time, partly because women have taken on larger roles in the armed forces and represent about 15 per cent of the total force today. They serve in all combat roles, including submarines, from which they were banned just 10 years ago.

Of the 1.1 million Canadians who put on a uniform in the Second World War, for example, about 100,000 were women and they mainly performed office, clerical, administrative and medical duties, much of it on the home front.

There were no rules then against personal relations (with the exception of homosexual bonds) or fraternization within the ranks. Many officers serving in England had girlfriends, some of whom they lived with. Even Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, commander of all Allied forces in Europe, was rumoured to have had a relationship with his female chauffeur, a member of the British Mechanized Transport Corps, although many accounts today dispute the claim.

For those men (and women back home) who were unfaithful, well, the French had a saying for it: C'est la guerre.

The Canadian army does not appear to have ever considered issuing an order against fraternizing with local women, probably because it would have been impractical and impossible to enforce, but also because it would have been bad for morale and an impediment to discipline under the conditions. And no one back then thought it might be unethical, much less a potential firing offence, for the boss to sleep with an employee. The military did, however, warn its soldiers about British women, saying they fell into three categories: prostitutes, loose women, and the girl next door. The first two were to be avoided, while the third was to be treated like a sister.

Women were frequently seen as the spoils of war and for Canadians the payoff came when they kicked the Nazis out of Holland. Several months after VE-Day, however, the novelty was beginning to wear off.

"Willing women, wine and spirits were still plentiful and there for the taking, but the thrill of the taking was gone," writes Tony Foster in Meeting of Generals. (Nearly 2,000 Canadians married Dutch women during the brief occupation.)

The thrill of liberation had also worn off for Princess Juliana, who had spent the war years in Ottawa. In fact, she had had enough of the Canadians and issued a Royal summons for Gen. Chris Vokes, head of the Canadian Occupation Force. (It's possible Foster may have meant to refer to Queen Wilhelmina, who was the Dutch monarch at the time and who had a reputation for bluntness.)

The princess told Vokes to be seated and then proceeded to lecture him for 20 minutes about the disgraceful behaviour of his troops.

The Canadians, the royal said, "appeared to be spending their time fornicating with every respectable girl in the Netherlands, leaving them pregnant and unmarried," Foster said.

"I want you and your Canadians out of Holland. All of you. You're a bad influence on the women of this nation. You're to leave now, General, and take all your soldiers with you!"

The general bowed and began to take his leave before turning and addressing the princess. "Madam," he asked, "does that include the dead ones?"

The princess lowered her head and nothing more was heard of the issue.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 1, 2010 A12

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