Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Rubberizing the military

A little tidbit in the news has been the fact that members of the Canadian Armed Forces are suddenly increasing the use of condoms. From CBC:

The number of taxpayer-funded condoms handed out to Canadian soldiers is on the rise again after an unexplained low four years ago.

Soldiers at home and abroad snapped up 306,522 condoms from January 2005 to March 2006, said the Canadian Press, citing figures obtained under the Access to Information Act.

Canadian Forces members are supplied with free condoms, paid for by the government and handed out through military dispensaries.
I'm not sure whether that was intended to raise the hackles of the civilian community or not, but the way it is written would certainly indicate that the reporter has a problem with the fact that condoms are supplied at no cost to the users.

Too bad.

A practice that dates back to the First World War, free condoms help defray medical costs by preventing soldiers from getting sexually transmitted diseases, the military says.
The military says?! It's a simple fact. And since the the CF medical system is required to treat any and all ailments CF personnel contract, a condom is a cheap, shall we say, prophylactic action.

While sex between the 2,300 soldiers is forbidden on the Kandahar air base in Afghanistan, the military does supply condoms there. Officials wouldn't speculate what the condoms were being used for, said the report.
OK. Let's chew on this for a bit.

First, it isn't just soldiers who are using condoms. Sailors and air force personnel use them too. In fact, I would reckon that sailors, in past years, have been the primary consumers of condoms.

Second, speculating on the use of a condom in Kandahar is not difficult. That's sort of like "no comment". Breaking regulations in the service is not illegal. Getting caught is an offence.

Third, the primary use of condoms by members of the armed forces is for safe sex. Is that a hard one to understand?

When I joined the navy there were condoms available at the gangway when proceeding ashore. They were there when I went to the British forces too. They were there when I retired. No one ever wrote a national news piece about them. And yes, they have always been available at no charge. You don't expect that people serve in the armed forces for the money, I hope? (If you do, we need to have a long talk - you're buying.)

Using purely naval vernacular, condoms have one primary purpose: prevent the user from developing a "stinger", something which usually appears about a week after the ship has left its last port and only remains a source of humour until the sickbay tiffy jams a needle armed with 1 million units of penicillin into the ailing sailor's butt.

That's if it's a common and curable STD. Sometimes the diagnosis is accompanied by the word "incurable". That only has to happen once in a ship and the use of condoms skyrockets.

But condoms have a lot of other really great uses in military service.

They make great small arms muzzle protectors. In a dirty, gritty environment they fit nicely over the barrel of a rifle and, held in place by an elastic band, they keep the dirt out of the business end of a weapon. Hey, if they can hold back bacteria they work even better keeping out sand. Further, they don't have to be removed when the weapon has to be fired. Just aim and shoot; the bullet just goes right throught the tip. Magic.

They make exceptional water bombs. On those days when boredom overtakes excitement, (believe me, it happens), the occasional practical joke is a great tension reliever. Nothing is finer than having the executive officer splattered with a well placed condom booby-trap.

There is a distinct shortage of party balloons in ships, tactical air units and infantry battalions. Particularly in combat zones. Condoms actually make superb balloons and with a little spray paint, no one can tell they weren't designed for that purpose. (The lubricated ones have proved to be something of an issue, but believe it or not, some enterprizing young servicemen actually solved that problem too.)

Targets. Condoms, inflated to the proper size actually make terrific small arms targets. In one particular mine clearance training procedure my ship went through a gross of condoms. On another occasion, filling a few condoms with a shot of helium gave the .50 cal machine gunners a full afternoon of practice.

First aid is another use. You'll find a lot of use for condoms in stopping bleeding and covering a bandage to prevent dirt, sand and slime getting into a wound.

There are at least 1001 uses for a condom, but the primary purpose is sex. Safe sex.

Glad to see the troops are listening to those lectures given by the medical officer in basic training.

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