Global Issues UK

“To Our Wives & Sweethearts” (may they never meet)

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A two-star US Army general has been recalled to Washington, amid allegations he had an inappropriate relationship with the wife of an enlisted soldier, the US Army reported last week.

This comes in the same week as Commander Stuart Armstrong, a senior British Naval officer and captain of HMS Vigilant, a Trident nuclear submarine, has also been relieved of his command while he is under investigation amid claims that he had an affair with a female junior officer while the submarine was apparently submerged in the Atlantic.

In a statement provided to The Associated Press by the US Army it was announced that Maj. Gen. Joseph Harrington was removed from his job due to a loss in confidence in his ability to command.

Earlier this year, the US Army began putting together a number of new mental health, counseling and career management programs in order to boost professionalism within the officer corps and get at what may be the root causes of the behaviour problems.

Gen. Mark Milley, the US Army’s chief of staff, told The Associated Press last month that, “we recognised senior executive leaders, with varying amounts of stress, lacked a holistic program that focuses on comprehensive health.” He said the military has strived to combat stress disorders, suicide and other problems, but often put the focus on enlisted troops or lower-ranking officers. A new emphasis must be placed on senior leaders, he said.

In 2014 the Royal Navy’s first female warship captain, Sarah West, was released from her command of the Type 23 frigate HMS Portland over an affair with a married officer in 2014 – claims both denied.

One of the traditional drinking toasts used by the Navy (there are seven – one for each day of the week) is: “To Our Wives and Sweethearts… May They Never Meet”. So you could be forgiven to thinking that a casual approach to relationships is not only encouraged but also endorsed by the Navy. However this dates back to the times when it was common for a sailor to have a girlfriend in every port. In 2013 the then Second Sea Lord, Vice-Admiral David Steel officially changed the toast to “our families” to reflect  a more appropriate tone for modern times.

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