Editor’s note: The Star Journal will be publishing periodic articles from Sergeant Rick Peterson of Rhinelander during his deployment to Afghanistan.
Full-fledged operations are now underway for the 829th Engineer Company in Afghanistan. As we progress in our missions, completing some and moving on to others, I will try to go into more detail about what exactly we are accomplishing. Whether I am able to and how much detail I am able to share will, of course, be subject to the guiding principles of operational security and other considerations necessary to protect the security and integrity of our overall mission and the safety of all of our soldiers.
Meanwhile, I thought it might be interesting for readers to have a greater understanding of some of the rules and regulations that we are subject to as military personnel deployed to serve in an armed conflict.
A General Order can be loosely defined as an umbrella order or a broad policy. General Orders are often considered Standing Orders and do not specifically address certain individual personnel. Rather, the Order applies to the entire Force overall, or in a particular area of the world.
For example, enlisted personnel must salute officers, and officers must return the salute. This is a Standing Order that has been in place for quite some time and does not address one particular subset of personnel in one specific area of the world. Rather, it covers the entire Force and provides a basis for good order and for disciplinary measures against those that do not comply.
For Army personnel deployed to Afghanistan, General Order No. 1 governs overall conduct and actions. There are slightly different versions of General Order No. 1, depending on exactly where one is serving and under what circumstances. At this time, the General Order No. 1 that we are subject to throughout Regional Command–East (RC-East) in Afghanistan was drafted by the current commander, Maj. Gen. Stephen Townsend, of the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), shortly after he assumed command in February of this year.
Much the same as previous versions of General Order No. 1 published here, it specifically prohibits conduct such as the consumption of alcohol for military personnel. It also explicitly prohibits the possession or consumption of pornographic materials. Further, it states that Army personnel “will not cohabit with, reside or sleep with members of the opposite gender in living spaces of any kind.” This of course excludes married couples who are deployed together, a occurrence which does happen occasionally.
Regarding intimate relationships, General Order No. 1 does not specifically prohibit such contact between Army personnel. However, it does place a number of restrictions upon soldiers in such a manner as to highly discourage such conduct, and by doing so seeks to promote professional behavior among all personnel. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) contains prohibitions against adultery and prohibitions against intimate relationships between officers and enlisted personnel, as well as higher ranking soldiers and their subordinates. Any personnel engaging in such behavior are subject to charges under the UCMJ. This General Order No. 1 simply goes a step further to address the subject.
Alcohol is prohibited. No one may introduce, possess, sell, trade, produce or consume alcoholic beverages of any kind, including civilian personnel employed by the US Army. Similar exclusions are in place regarding illegal drugs and paraphernalia. Among the reasons such rules exist are promoting professionalism, and also to ensure the readiness of all soldiers at any given time of the day or night. While there is occasionally “down time” for military personnel who are on hazardous duty, there is no such thing as a “day off.” Soldiers must maintain an alert status such that they are prepared to respond at any time to any emergency when called upon.
Other provisions of General Order No. 1 cover the treatment of Afghani citizens and address their customs and beliefs. For example, we are expressly prohibited from handling the Quran. Given previous instances of personnel mishandling this sacred Muslim text, the US Army has determined that it is necessary to prohibit the handling of it by other than Chaplains and similarly designated personnel. The intent of this prohibition is to avoid offending the Muslim populace and to promote ongoing partnerships with the Afghani people.
Another provision of General Order No. 1 addresses vehicle operations and related safety requirements such as the wearing of personal protective equipment while operating particular pieces of equipment. Further provisions speak to such things as not smoking inside or within 50 feet of tents, living areas or other buildings; not giving or trading US Government property with others, particularly host nation civilians or military personnel; weapon readiness status; and not using proxy servers to access the World Wide Web (thereby masking or attempting to mask web surfing habits). Unit Commanders may apply further restrictions and have some discretion in the application of General Order No. 1, but may not diminish the requirements set forth in it.
Along with General Order No. 1, there are many, many other rules and regulations to abide by such as those covered by Rules of Engagement and the Law of War, to name a few major ones. It is not necessary to commit to memory paragraph and line of each policy, procedure, law, rule or provision. A general understanding of what is required of oneself while serving is certainly recommended and the Army goes a long way toward ensuring that we each have that general understanding through postings, publications and of course by way of “death by PowerPoint.”
It has been said that “Common sense is a flower that does not grow in everyone’s garden.” Or, “’Common sense’ is not as common as the term suggests.” These are truisms that can be applied to people in all walks of life and they apply to military personnel as well. However, a measure of common sense, liberally applied, will go a long way toward allowing deployed personnel the ability to abide by the guidelines that prescribe the way they should conduct themselves. Professionalism is of the utmost importance, particularly in a counterinsurgency such as Operation Enduring Freedom. We must conduct ourselves in a manner that breeds professionalism and good conduct among our comrades and promotes similar behavior among our partners in Afghanistan, Coalition Forces and Host Nationals alike.