Military members should not have to abide by the US drinking age requirement! Should military personnel be exempt from the U.S drinking age requirement?  Should we serve our teenaged soldiers intoxicating drinks as they cuddle the rifles issued to them by the government?  Most people say no because they believe that when the National Minimum Drinking Act took effect, setting the minimum drinking age at 21, the federal law covered everybody, civilian as well as the military. Some individuals believe, however, that an exemption should be granted to the members of the military, given the nature of their duties, especially in the defense of the country.

   Basically, military members are given more extensive duties and responsibilities that result in higher levels of stress and should therefore not have to abide by the US drinking age requirement.As most people know, alcohol negatively affects adolescents.  The opponents of the move to exempt the military from the minimum drinking age are afraid of the dangerous effects of alcohol on young people below twenty-one.  White (2004), in summing up the experiments of the effects of alcohol on the brains of rats, said that adolescents are more likely to have their memories impaired by alcohol than adults but are less affected by the sedative effects of alcohol.In other words, adolescents do not easily get drowsy from alcohol, so they tend to drink longer, consuming more.  Because they are likely to lose their short-term memory more easily, they could reach that point during drinking sessions that they no longer know what they are doing.

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  Keller (1966) refers to this as a “blackout”.  According to him, “a person may appear to be functioning quite normally [during a blackout], even drive an automobile safely home from quite a distance, but not able to recall any of this.”   For these reasons, all states in the country have raised the drinking age from age 18 to age 21.However, some debate exists as to whether or not this rule should apply to military personnel on military bases, especially those located outside the United States in countries whose drinking ages are different, usually lower, than the US’s laws.

  To allow military personnel to drink on bases at ages 18-20, the US Department of Defense codified the federal law by issuing instruction 1015.10 as follows:The minimum drinking age on a DoD installation located in a State (including the District of Columbia) shall be consistent with the age established by law of that State as the State minimum drinking age…The minimum drinking age on a DoD installation located outside the United States shall be 18 years of age (Powers, 2007). This law sends the clear message that soldiers between the ages of 18 and 20  should be able to drink on bases located in places where the drinking ages is 18.  While some military officers ignore this rule based upon the valid theory that alcohol is unsafe, the camaraderie, social aspects and stresses of military life should override any attempt to circumvent this ruling. Some military base commanders chose to overlook the provision under instruction 1015.10 providing for a minimum drinking age of 18 on installations located overseas.  Instead, they decided to enforce the minimum drinking age of 21.  In South Korea, for example, the U.

S. Forces Korea (USFK) decided to enforce the federal law on drinking age on November 1, 2004, instead of the stipulated 18 years of age limit for installations situated outside of the United States, claiming that they have no reason to be exempted from the law being enforced in the mainland.  Earlier, in Japan, the base commander at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station requested establishments located outside the base not to serve alcohol to their soldiers who are below 21 years of age. (Weaver, 2004)  These initiatives clearly show that the military hierarchy sees no valid reason for an exemption because they also believe that providing guns and alcohol to underaged soldiers is not safe.Unfortunately, alcoholism is a serious problem in the United States.  Alcohol impairs judgment and increases risk-taking and aggressive behaviors, which most people agree are poor behaviors for anyone, let alone an individual on a military base who has access to weapons.  Plus, underage drinkers are taking advantage of these provisions.

  According to the Department of Defense, in 2005, underage active duty members stationed at Hickam Air Force Base were responsible for nearly 25 percent of the alcohol-related incidents on base, even though they comprised only 4.2 percent of the base population.“If you are old enough to kill and be killed for your country, you are old enough to drink alcohol!” This has become the battle cry of soldiers.   “Seven of every eight (88%) of the 1,323 respondents to a nonscientific nation-wide poll said that active military personnel should be allowed to consume alcohol on base regardless of their age” (Drinking Age in the U.S.

Military).  In support, Sivaswamy (2004) argued that banning 18-year-olds from drinking is illogical.  He observed that once someone turns 18, “he is wooed left and right by political parties of all hues for his maiden vote, he can procure a driving license on reaching this magical landmark, heck, an 18-year-old girl can wed, is recognized as an adult for all practical purposes – bar one.”  This one privilege is, of course, the consumption of alcohol.Some legislators agreed.

  Moves are already on the way to correct what they believe is an injustice being done to soldiers.  Wisconsin led the way when State Rep. Mark Pettis (R-Town of La Follette) filed a bill (AB 141) which would lower the minimum drinking age for military members residing in Wisconsin to 19.

  Pettis said that “If you are old enough to push the button on nuclear action, you should be old enough to have a Miller Lite.”  He says he considers it unconscionable “that we welcome these young men and women home form harms’ way, some of them after barely surviving, but they can’t imbibe in an adult beverage.” (Should There be a Lower Drinking age for Military Members?).  Clearly the extra responsibilities and stresses placed upon military personnel should grant them the same chances at camaraderie as their older counterparts.The military is different from a regular civilian, social life.  Life on military bases is based on complete trust in your fellow officers because a person’s life could be in the hands of these people.  For this reason, camaraderie is very important among these individuals.  Many young military recruits, newbies, are struggling to enter these ranks.

  On a military bases, trust and friendships are often established over drinks, much like a business deal might be closed over lunch.  “Face-to-face interviews with young Navy personnel revealed established drinking rituals and routines as well as elements of the work environment that encouraged drinking at work on land bases and during deployment liberties” In a way it is part of the job expectation.Therefore, allowing the 18-20 year-old soldiers to take part in this bonding is essential in this situation.  “In the old military, you were encouraged to drink,” says Col. Dale Santee, an attorney who heads the March Air Reserve Base legal department.Commander Alexander recalls going to lunch when she joined the Navy 20 years ago and “being the only one eating food.” (Schwartz, 2003).

  Without the opportunity to bond with their superiors, military youngsters would not have the opportunity for bonding.The arguments against the military drinking exemption is centered around the problems with drinking and criminal activity.  The Marines, in particular, are fully cognizant of the alcohol problem in the military.

  The United States Marine Corps admitted in its website that “A majority of the crimes that Marines commit involve the use or abuse of alcohol.  Alcohol clouds one’s judgment.” (Leaders Guide for Managing Marines in Distress).Yet, the arguments advanced by proponents of the military exemption on the drinking age law are flawed.  Most of the physical problems with alcohol are not specific to young people.

  Memory impairment, blackouts, and other physical symptoms of alcohol can happen to any person, old or young. In fact, the physical effects of alcohol are known to affect smaller people more than larger people in that people of lower body weight can handle less alcohol in their bloodstreams.  Size and age have nothing to do with one another. Other physical aspects of alcohol consumptions include food in the system and possible genetic links to alcoholism.  Neither of these is related to age either.Others worry about the emotional aspects of alcohol that may affect young soldiers more than more mature soldiers.  Again, it is important to remember that the military is not the same as the real world.

  These young people have been through basic training and have been completely introduced to stressful situations that they have had to handle with the utmost level of maturity.  Comparing the 19 year-old college freshman to the 19 year-deployed serviceman on the characteristic of maturity is ludicrous.                                               Also, recruits are given education about alcohol in basic training, which is more than what happens for most civilian 19-year-olds.  “Because junior enlisted personnel are most vulnerable, they are educated about alcohol and drug use early in basic training” (Schwartz, 2003).  The Marine Corps Recruiting Depot in San Diego offers several hours of substance-abuse, drinking-and-driving, and personal-conduct lectures during 12 weeks of boot camp as well.   “Along with teaching honor, courage and commitment-the Marines’ core values-infamously tough drill instructors at times become friendly mentors, leading informal discussions about high-risk behaviors” (Schwartz, 2003).

These drill instructors have moved away from the hard-nosed, swearing bullies from movies and now encourage new recruits to talk about how they would handle peer pressures and other alcohol-related situations in a mature manner.   Military recruits have had more alcohol education than most people have and have all the tools to act maturely and rationally when they do drink alcohol.                                Another thing that many opponents ignore is the fact that this legal codification applies to military bases.

  It does not give military individuals to drink underage in civilian areas.  Thus, any dangers or problems with the alcohol abuse will be confined to the base and will be handled by the officers there.  It has little possibility of affecting civilians in any way.

In fact, one of the original supporters of the drinking age increase, Representative Bill Splaine has changed his views on the drinking age. He now believes lowering the age is appropriate. “As I’ve observed the results of the age 21 drinking requirement … I’ve come to the conclusion that raising the drinking age is an experiment that doesn’t work,” he said.

“It has resulted in more problems than it has solved” (Haberman, 2006).  Two other state legislatures, Vermont and Wisconsin, are considering lowering their drinking ages for military personnel as well.All in all, most people agree that excessive drinking is bad for health and society.

  Regardless of the drinking age, responsible drinking should be the focus of all – military and non-military individuals.  The state of Hawaii has begun to address this very anti-drinking arugment. “The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has awarded Hawaii a three-year, $950,000 grant to reduce underage drinking by U.S.

Air Force personnel stationed at Hickam Air Force Base. This new and innovative program will strengthen collaborations between Hickam Air Force Base and the local community to reduce underage drinking of military personnel, both on and off post” ( Lt. Governor… 2006).Clearly measures to ensure responsible drinking among all individuals should be the key component of any alcohol program or law.  The age of the individual does not really matter; his level of education as to the proper social uses of alcohol is.  Military bases are stressful establishments that thrive on trust and camaraderie.  The social aspects of alcohol are part of this.

  Therefore, with proper guidance, 18-20 year olds who are in the military, should be able to drink on military bases.;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;Bibliography;Ames, G., and Cunradi, C. (2006). Alcohol Use and Preventing Alcohol-Related Problems         Among Young Adults in the Military.  Bethesda, MD:  National Institute of Alcohol        Abuse and Alcoholism.Drinking age in the U.S.

Military. Alcohol Problems and Solutions.  Retrieved from:http://www2.potsdam.

edu/hansondj/IntheNews/UnderageDrinking/1106156025.htmlHaberman, S. (2006). Military drinking age battle.  Portsmouth Herald.  Retrieved from             http://www.

seacoastonline.com/news/special/1_10special7.htmKeller, J.E. (1966). Ministering To Alcoholics. Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Augsburg           Publishing House.Legal Problems. Leaders Guide for Managing Marines in Distress.

Retrieved from:(http://www.usmc-mccs.org/LeadersGuide/Personal/Legal/generalinfo.cfmLt. Governor Aiona Announces Federal Grant to Reduce Underage Drinking Among US Air    Force Personnel. (2006). Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii. Retrieved           from http://www.

hawaii.gov/ltgov/news/releases/10.26.06Powers, R. (2007).

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htmShane, L. (2005). Bill Would Lower GI Drinking Age to 18. Military.Com. Retrieved from:http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,81552,00.

html?ESRC=airforce-a.nlShould There Be A Lower Drinking Age For Military Members? Army.Com. Retrieved from:http://www.army.

com/articles/august_gi_drinking_age.htmlSivaswamy, S. (2004). Old enough to vote, not old enough to drink.Retrieved from: http://www.rediff.com/news/2004/feb/26/sai.

htmSchwartz, M. (2003).Underage Drinking: One Too Many. Ashore.  Retrieved from:http://www.safetycenter.

navy.mil/media/ashore/issues/summer03/UnderageDrinking.      htmWeaver, T. (2004). USFK’s legal drinking age for military personnel, civilians going up to          21. Stars and Stripes. Retrieved from: http://www.estripes.

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