When it comes to alcohol consumption and military members, Marines take the cake, it seems.
So goes a recent Department of Defense’s Health Related Behaviors Survey, anyway, which just found that while about one-third of military personnel meet the criteria to be slapped with an alcohol problem, Marines, far and away, were worse. Specifically, 30 percent or so of military members for the various branches confessed to binge drinking — consuming five drinks at one sitting if men; four, if women — at least once in the past month, the Military Times reported.
But Marines? More than 42 percent admitted to the same.
Have to say — not a huge surprise.
Not a surprise at all. As a matter of fact, drinking-plus-Marines has been a well-documented equation for years, so much so that jokes have been made — no punchline explanation needed.
“How to Drink Like a Marine,” rang one Daily Beast headline in late 2017.
“We Hang Out With Some Crazy Marines Drinking Their Asses Off at Coachella,” rang another one from L.A. Weekly in early 2013.
And this rather graphic description of a Marine Corps barracks, back in late 2012, from The New York Times: “When I checked into my first Marine Corps unit, it was a Friday in 2004. I did so with three other Marines. By nightfall, we had finished moving our belongings into our barracks rooms and noticed the chaos forming on the balconies around us. In the distance someone funneled beer from the third story to the second. My neighbors took turns alternating shots, even though liquor is prohibited in the barracks. Beer bottles were heaved into the quad. Throughout the night … I saw a variety of antics. At 18, I was offered moonshine. Vomit stained the concrete. I would like to say that this was the only Friday night I witnessed things like this. I’d actually like to say it didn’t happen the next night. I cannot. In the military, drinking is an accepted part of the culture.”
The reality of the drinking rate of Marines — heck, of military service members from all branches — may be a painful reality for DoD to admit.
But it’s part of the whole military experience, and it runs the ranks in both enlisted and officer sides.
So what’s the big takeaway?
Only this: Top brass could stop Marines’ drinking — all military members’ drinking, for that matter — with the issuance of a quick, simple order that, say, declares bases dry or confines members to controlled, alcohol-free settings. But they won’t.
They won’t because A) top brass enjoys drinking as much as any ol’ infantry guy scooping out a foxhole in the field and B) in the end, what’s a few beers and shots in the face of a murderous ISIS enemy?
DoD can report all it wants on personnel alcohol issues and concerns.
But so long as they’re shooting straight and aiming true and hitting the enemies where it counts, Marines and alcohol— military members and booze — will stay true blue buddies in the bars, in the barracks, pretty much anywhere there’s steam to be blown. That’s just the reality of military life.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley.