August 07, 2009

Cyprus is really quite nice

The Star today is droning on about a report it uncovered of problems with the Forces third-location decompression problem in Cyprus, with a minority of soldiers getting drunk and spending too much money and an even smaller fraction getting into fights, etc.

I would actually say based on my own experience that the return journey from Afghanistan is about the slickest and most efficient thing the Forces does, period. No fuss, no muss. Clear guidelines on how to behave. Good seminars on post-deployment issues. Lots of relaxation with colleagues. Minimum inconvenience to family and friends back home.

Yes, a small fraction of soldiers still choose to be idiots. Generally, they suffer for it (Canadian military law still applies to soldiers in Cyprus, along with Cypriot law, which the local police prosecute aggressively). It's not like thye Paphos area is unused to rowdy soldiers: the British have had a large base there for decades, and the locals have got handling problems down to an art.

And yes, as one guy quoted in the article correctly states, there's no way you can spend so much on drink in Cyprus to make a serious dent in your take home pay in four nights. Even if you're buying. (And if your problem is you're drinking that much after six months off the sauce, likely better to reintroduce yourself to alcohol with buds far from kids and spouses.) The real problem as far as soldiers spending their tour pay is those who avail themselves of local prostitution rings, which the Forces in situ does everything humanly possible to suppress (no guests allowed in rooms, two men to a room, no-go bars, extensive briefings on arrival on what you can catch, what will happen to you if you're caught, horror stories about the last guy, etc.).

Yes, some people are still idiots. You're rotating through with a couple hundred stressed-out soldiers every couple days. On my TLD I saw two incidents I would describe as overly rowdy (no damage done, just alcohol-inspired "ananotherthing..." type rudeness), and one really bad local tour guide (he wasn't a rip-off, just boring). Another guy I know went on a fishing expedition and didn't catch anything. At breakfast some mornings the figs were a little sub-par. The rest, as with the entire return-home experience, was quite relaxing and pleasant.

Ananotherthing. One wishes the Star would take advantage of the internet to post more of these documents it uncovers with FOI requests and the like. There's no mention in the article of the occurrence rate of real problems (assaults, injuries, criminal or military charges, etc.), just one or two anecdotal examples. (A comparison with British soldiers, many of whom also decompress in Cyprus, would have been nice.) Without a link to the source documents, or a quote of whatever incidence estimate it might contain it's impossible to say, but I can't believe based on my own experience it's higher than 1 in 100, out of the 6,000 people per year are going through the experience. That's pretty darn good. It's a well-run program that the Forces should take pride in.

Posted by BruceR at 12:13 PM