How sex and romantic relationships while deployed impact military teamwork and Total Force Fitness

Social fitness is an important part of your overall health and wellness. When your relationships are healthy, you’re more likely to perform at your best. HPRC’s Total Force Fitness experts are often asked how to build healthy team relationships or work on ones that are struggling. But what’s the policy on—and impact of—sex between Military Service Members while deployed in theater?

There’s no single, military-wide policy that specifically prohibits Military Service Members from engaging in consensual sexual activities while deployed. However, sex during deployment is a tricky matter because  fraternization and extramarital sexual conduct are outlined by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) as potentially serious offenses under UCMJ Article 134 of the Manual for Courts-Martial United States (2019 Edition). In addition, each specific branch has certain guidelines that define appropriate relationships between Military Service Members.

It’s also important to take a holistic approach and consider the potential negative effects to unit readiness and team morale that can result from relationships among those who are deployed. Unintended pregnancy, compromised chain of command, and lower moral are all possible outcomes that can impact Military Service Members and compromise unit performance.

If you have questions about romantic relationships or other social fitness issues in the military, you can browse the Social Fitness domain of HPRC’s website, or you can send us a question using our Ask the Expert feature.


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References

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Manual for Courts-Martial United States. (2019). Retrieved November 23, 2020 from https://jsc.defense.gov/Portals/99/Documents/2019%20MCM%20(Final)%20(20190108).pdf?ver=2019-01-11-115724-610.

Ahronson, A., & Cameron, J. E. (2010). The nature and consequences of group cohesion in a military sample. Military Psychology, 19(1), 9–25. doi:10.1080/08995600701323277

Cox, Walter T. Consensual sex crimes in the armed forces: A primer for the uninformed. Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, 14(2), 791–813.

Harrell, M. C., & Miller, L. L. (1997). New Opportunities for Military Women: Effects Upon Readiness, Cohesion, and Morale. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.

Rabie, N. Z., & Magann, E. F. (2013). Unintended pregnancies among US active-duty women. Women's Health, 9(3), 229–231. doi:10.2217/whe.13.21

Wise, S. (2014). Can a team have too much cohesion? The dark side to network density. European Management Journal, 32(5), 703–711. doi:10.1016/j.emj.2013.12.005<