By Capt. Chip Ladd (U.S. Army)
Stuttgart Law Center
Q: I am in love! I am a 19-year-old private who just arrived in Stuttgart from boot camp. I met a dreamy 24-year-old corporal. We Facebook constantly and find every excuse to meet during work. Is this permissible?
A: No. During Valentine season we may be tempted to abandon our normal duties and use official duty time to flirt. However, this romance may affect your unit’s mission and may be prohibited by your service’s fraternization policy. The core values such as service before self require that we always place the mission first.
While personal relationships between military members are normally matters of individual choice and judgment, they become matters of official concern when they adversely affect the military. These relationships can erode good order, discipline, respect for authority, unit cohesion or mission accomplishment.
Official duty time is considered an official resource, similar to government credit cards, computers or vehicles. Duty time shall be used for official purposes in accordance with the Joint Ethics Regulation (DoD 5500.7-R). Duty time should not be used for romance.
Additionally, relationships between personnel of different ranks are generally prohibited by service regulations such as Army Regulation 600-20, Air Force Instruction 36-2909, and Office of the Chief of Naval Operations Instruction 5370.2C. The key theme in all these regulations is that the relationship is prohibited if it adversely impacts the mission. Here, it could appear that the relationship with the corporal distracts you from your duties.
Relationships between personnel of different ranks are also prohibited if they involve, or appear to involve, the use of rank. They cannot be exploitative in nature. The military has traditionally only prohibited romantic relationships between officers and enlisted personnel. However, in 2014, standards may be enforced more strictly than in previous years as the military combats sexual harassment and assault among the ranks.
Personnel who engage in unprofessional relationships may receive negative evaluations, reprimands, bars to reenlistment or Uniform Code of Military Justice action. All personnel share in the responsibility for maintaining professional relationships. Although the senior member may be in the best position to terminate the relationship, both parties could be held accountable.
In this case, you just arrived from boot camp. It could appear that the corporal used rank to exploit your inexperience. Help the corporal end this relationship before it ends both of your careers. If the corporal refuses to end it, ask a supervisor for help.