Sex and soldiers are the forces of life and death crashing into one another. It gets animalistic. It gets filmed.
Luckily for me, the Ministry of Defence had decided to treat the British Army to single-man rooms by the time I’d enlisted. It was still animalistic, but at least now there were walls—walls thumped by headboards through which you could hear screaming and laughing. If you’re a parent and live near an Army base, ask yourself: Is she really hanging out with her friends all night, or is she becoming the star of a mobile-phone movie on camp?
I’d been a soldier for five years. I’d done bomb-disposal training. I’d been to Cyprus to help clear the Akamas peninsula of unexploded ordnance. I’d just come back from the war in Iraq. I’d done all this but was still a little uncomfortable with sex on an Army camp.
Here’s one reason why: My mate Chris had just come back from a night out. Light cracked out of his open door. The Foo Fighters screamed from his stereo that it was at “times like these you learn to live again” when I popped in for a chat. Chris was having sex with a local girl who was wearing his gas mask. The British Army issues all soldiers a respirator to be used in times of nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) warfare. This was not one of those times. The respirator—nicknamed “Ressie”—will allow the soldier to breathe and carry on fighting until the dirty bomb in his or her environment eats through his NBC suit. If they can find cover, they can change into another suit; if not, they’ll break-dance on the floor until they die. Here was Chris demonstrating the improvisation skills for which the British Army was famous. He saw me and laughed. I’m not sure if she saw me; the respirator’s eyepieces were a little clouded. I signaled I’d pop back later.
Here’s another reason I was uncomfortable with sex: I was a virgin. The lads knew this and helped me get over this hurdle. There were some lovely moments where hardened soldiers sat around dinner tables asking me about my first date and my first kiss. They’d hug me and smile. They’d help me decide what to wear. They’d drive me to dates.
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