The Navy’s Debauchery Problem: An Enlisted Perspective

Source: National Review.

The observations in this story ring true to me, as I have lived and worked among Naval personnel all my life.

I would say, though, that debauchery is almost a Naval tradition and it is not confined to the enlisted rates. Having been to sea on small boats (never in the Navy) I tend to think there is something about the at-sea experience that causes the excesses of at-shore behavior. I suspect, too, that navies everywhere have always known this and always found it more expedient to accept the consequences than to try to prevent them. Some things you can’t change.

6 thoughts on “The Navy’s Debauchery Problem: An Enlisted Perspective

  1. Human nature is what it is. Young men with limited outlets for their energies for months at a time are going to look to release those energies as soon as they get off the ship.

    I do think there are some things that can help.

    Shorter deployments.

    Legalize prostitution in the US

    Locate the brothels closer to the base than the bars.

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  2. The writer makes some good suggestions for improving the lot of the working sailors.

    He leaves out one that might have the most signicant impact on the worse aspects of this issue.

    Quit making excuses for and sheltering criminal behavior. Prosecute criminals under the laws of the jurisdiction where the crimes occur. If I assault someone – physically or sexually, I do not get rounded up by the Shore Patrol to cool off in a brig. I go to jail. As I should.

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  3. Interesting read. I think some of it is a bit outdated, but not untrue in many circumstances.

    The writer seems to disregard the presence of woman on warships. He does mention some of the MWR programs that have been implemented over the years to provide better “distractions” during port visits, including the community outreach programs (can’t recall what they are called) where sailors deliver food, offer repairs and quality time with locals who are less fortunate.

    My personal favorite MWR sponsored tour was to Jerusalem in 1995. Was able to pray at the Wailing Wall, visit the Church of the Holy Seplechure (even a Jewish guy can appreciate the power of such a place), and Bethlehem. Even the shortened visit to Yad Va’shem and the powerful, emotional visit to that museum’s Children’s Memorial.

    On a note, I did make CPO (E-7) with one dui and zero divorces. I guess that makes me a bit of an anomaly.

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  4. I can vouch for much of that article having spent 4 years of my misspent youth on a WW2 destroyer that steamed everywhere in the Third World. Colonial Angola and Mozambique. East Pakistan, Dijibouti, Bahrain, West Pakistan. Many places had no bars, but other entertainment was available for the adventurous or foolhardy.

    Living conditions and food after 3 days at sea was pretty spartan, cramped, and endless. “duty ham” with canned green beans. Movies were projected on a sheet in the mess deck so half the viewers saw it backwards. No big deal except for subtitles.

    We were a conscription military then. The crew of non-career (“lifers”) personnel were in from a sense of duty mixed with staying out of the Army fighting in the jungles. Yes, sailors got into trouble, but generally nothing more than sleep and aspirin couldn’t cure.

    Coupling this experience with two summers as deckhand or motorman apprentice on small ocean freighters gave me experiences I treasure still. “Jamaica Farewell”, “I had to leave a little girl in Kingston Town”, rang true for millennia and apparently still today.

    One thing that has changed in commercial shipping is that the ships are not in port long enough for a lot of shore leaves. And crews are well paid professionals relative to their home countries. But, like Don wrote, isolation, tedium and time add up to needing to release some “steam”.

    Military culture changes slowly in many ways. Humans perhaps even slower. 😇

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  5. I always thought that the best way to address drunkeness was by making the novelty a non-novelty. Yes, 2 beers a day. Many other Navies have alcohol onboard and they have far fewer shore incidents than the US Navy. Grueling schedules would make it difficult but it would counter the reasons most sailors go to the bar first and get sloshed. In my day, you were expected to party with the guys and as long as you could stumble across the quarter deck you were good, not today. Of course that wouldn’t cure the girl issue. Females on ships only makes for different problems and believe me many girls know how to use being female. Lastly, I had no duis but 1 divorce, I was an anomaly as well but had a blast.

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    1. Hell hat frozen over. More agreement than disagreement between us.

      Beer days every 150 days happened during Gulf War II. But that was 150 days with zero port visits.

      Yes there are issues with female sailors on warships. But I was tapped to be on the training team in preparation for their assignment to a CG. We had few problems early on and were able to nip in the bud arising issues. With one notable exception. And that was the LDO who was way too obvious about his relationship with one of the female helicopter pilots assigned.
      Even the XO’s “suggestion” that they tone it down had zero effect. Of course like many LDO’s I have encountered, this guy thought he could walk on water and actually was the cause of 4 divorces in his work centers (electronics) because of the way he worked his sailors.

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