Allegations of promiscuous sex and excessive drinking by servicemen and women in the Falklands Garrison has met with mixed reaction in the United Kingdom with a reminder that whatever happens in off-duty hours, the tri-service force remains at a high state of readiness to deter any military threat, which is its reason for being based there.
The Ministry of Defence says allegations of misconduct are being investigated and, where proved, disciplinary action will be taken. Military chiefs here challenge and deny what they reject as an unrepresentative, jaundiced and potentially damaging picture of rowdy behaviour, published in the large circulation Sun Newspaper, based on a dossier it says was sent by an RAF officer who had recently served there. The Ministry of Defence stresses the professional and strict training of the armed forces, and their readiness for combat if required.
Islanders praise for garrison The Falklands Government has frequently praised the garrison for its generally good behaviour and its help to the civilian community. It has a long record of coping with emergencies and saving Islanders' lives by medical evacuation to hospital in Uruguay and the United Kingdom. The Falklands Government Representative in London, Sukey Cameron, emphasised the strong rapport and co-operation that exists between the local population and the military and mutual support for each other's welfare and charities. Servicemen have built up a record of good behaviour in their contacts with Islanders, who have welcomed many of them to stay in their homes. The timing of the article comes just before a 20th Anniversary mass visit by veterans of the South Atlantic Medal Association (SAMA) who evicted the Argentine invaders in 1982. SAMA's Secretary, Denzil Connick, a paratrooper severely wounded in the battle for Mount Longdon, said he could not speak too highly of the help SAMA has received both from the Islanders and their comrades in successive garrisons.
Argentine threat unlikely Comments by in the RAF officer's dossier and by the Sun's Military Adviser, retired Major General Ken Perkins, suggesting that a breakdown of discipline and weekend drunkenness could encourage the Argentines to risk an attack, are dismissed as rubbish. The RAF officer's dossier claims "there is a perception throughout the base that Argentine forces are incapable of militarily and economically conducting a campaign to re-invade the Falklands. Were they to do so, the forces that would primarily resist them would be degraded by alcohol on any Thursday to Sunday night". In fact, Argentine policy long ago dropped military invasion as a means of pursuing their sovereignty claim, and it is true the nation is economically bankrupt, with its forces very much run down in recent years. The 1,300- strong British garrison has a range of powerful equipment to challenge aggression, and can swiftly be reinforced through the military base on Ascension Island.
Defences on quick action alert The RAF stresses that it is a 24-hour, 365 days a year operation, on constant alert and ready to react. Defence readiness is regularly tested, and no pilot is allowed to drink within twelve hours before flying. A tanker aircraft and the front-line fighter defence of Tornado fighters -- affectionately known as "Faith", "Hope", "Charity" and "Desperation"-- Are permanently on QRA, quick ready alert, to go into action to defend the islands. Three radar stations - at Byron Heights and Mount Alice in West Falkland and Mount Kent in East Falkland - keep constant watch for marauders. Rapier missiles manned by the RAF regiment are trained on the skies, and a maritime reconnaissance Hercules patrols the vast two-million square miles of ocean of the South Atlantic Overseas Territories in the unpredictable and often tempestuous South Atlantic weather to maintain a military presence as far south as the South Sandwich Islands and Southern Thule. An airbridge - code-named "Cannonball" ? maintains a regular trooping and civilian passenger service between Brize Norton in England and Mount Pleasant. A Royal Navy warship is on regular patrol, backed up sometimes by a nuclear-powered submarine. Infantrymen regularly patrol the islands, and Royal Engineers maintain watch over the 16,000 residual Argentine mines enclosed behind barbed wire fences, and repeatedly warn children of the dangers. While off-duty personnel may be getting drunk or having sex, this defensive shield is permanently in place.
Drink and sex allegations Historians point out that soldiers throughout the centuries in many lands have a history of relaxing with drink and women. One of Britain's greatest military Commanders, the "the Iron Duke" of Wellington, once famously remarked about his rabble of troops: "I don't know what they do to the enemy, but, by God, they frighten me". That did not prevent him and many other commanders leading them to many victories. The Sun article is headlined: "Forces' Boozy Mayhem on Falklands ? Sex for sale, RAF girls lap-dancing, and nude flasher in low-flying Chinook". It alleges that two army majors were posted elsewhere after being seen having sex in the officers' mess; that a girl civilian worker on the base who offered sex for sale was sent back to Britain; that a helicopter crewman hung naked from the back of a low ?flying Chinook helicopter and exposed himself to women below; that RAF women stripped for topless photographs and lap-danced in their underwear; and that new arrivals had to take part in initiation ceremonies in which lager was drunk from an Argentine soldier's helmet with a bullet hole in it. The RAF says initiation ceremonies are not permitted.