Monday, August 03, 2009

The fault lies with ourselves ....

I saw the transition --- I just got the last bit of the Officer Club culture.
Just seven officers' clubs remain on Army installations in the USA — down from about 100 in the late 1970s. The Marine Corps, which boasted dozens of officers' clubs in the mid-1980s, has 10 left. The Air Force has nine, down from 27 in 2003, and the Navy is down to 20. Clubs are nearing extinction because of changing demographics of today's armed forces; what the military calls the "deglamorization" of alcohol; economic realities; cultural shifts; and the availability of wider dining choices nearby.
The last nail in the coffin was the mass institutional cowardice post Tailhook when the then JOs saw lots of innocent and outstanding officers thrown under the bus for no reason other then to protect the careers of those more senior.

Let this be clear. Officers spend no more time with their families now than they did in the 1980s. They don't drink less. They probably smoke less, but at the same rate as comparable professionals in the civilian ranks.

Here is what happened. In the last couple of decades I know people who have been told to stop smoking if they wanted a chance for command, as important people would not support smokers in their community. Where as a JO I enjoyed quite a few good time on the town with more senior officers, only a fool would be found having more than one beer around anyone who owns paper on them or could impact community support for command --- unless you knew that person very well. If you did, you would in no way do it on base or anywhere near a base.

As a LT, I saw a peer get a DUI charge on base after literally having only 1 beer. How do I know? I was with him from 0645 to 1930 when he left the O-Club Hail & Farewell. He was stopped by the goose-steppers who were targeting the O-club. He fought it hard, but it was 1 annual and 1 Change of Command FITREP later that they dropped all charges against him and he could drive on base again. By then it was too late.

One of the regular things I told my JOs is that every event social or otherwise should be considered a work event. Never have more than one beer on base, and never be in the last half of the people who leave the gathering.

When on liberty, only go on liberty with those you trust the most --- and avoid anyone more than three year-groups senior to you.

Yep, clubs are dead and the fault is 100% with the uniformed leadership. If you cannot and will not defend your culture, then no one will. Maybe that culture needed to die, but you know what --- as you have seen with Retro Wednesday, it wasn't all bad. Yes, there used to be strippers at O-clubs back in the day ... but ... that was then.

Perfect? No. Better? Maybe not. Lost? Forever.

Support the O-club? Mandatory membership? Bah! If you suck the fun out of everything and remove any cost differential, people will vote with their feet - as they have. It is much better to sit on your back porch drinking scotch with a friend or two.

The whole wardroom? On base? At an O-club? Having drinks? Playing drinking games? Singing off-color songs? Now? As a JO? With a paternalistic, teetotaler, busy-body Commodore perchance coming by?

No. Way. Might as well show up at a Dining Out with her.

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