Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., a Vietnam veteran and former war correspondent who now chairs the Senate panel that oversees military personnel policy, seemed to endorse the idea of letting troops in war zones drink alcohol as a way to relieve combat stress.
At a hearing of his Senate Armed Services military personnel panel, Webb asked defense and service officials about mental health issues facing deployed service members and, in particular, about a recent Military Times investigation into the military’s use of anti-depressants and other drugs for treating mental health issues.
The reported increase in prescription drug use and self-medication by deployed troops “is, quite frankly, astounding to me,” Webb said, adding that it is a clear indicator of the overall fatigue of combat troops who are not getting enough time between deployments.
“We do have a really stressed force,” said Webb, who also is a former Navy secretary.
One thing worth investigating, Webb said, is whether a ban on alcohol consumption in the war zones — which he said is primarily a nod to host-nation sensitivities — should be lifted.
Webb said stress relief is handled differently in every culture and suggested that U.S. commanders should reconsider allowing “alcohol for stress relief.”