FIRST, there was Operation Desert Shield.
Then, there was Operation Desert Storm.
Now, there is Operation Desert (Between the) Sheets.
The most potent fighting force in the world is getting advice from headquarters in Washington about the niceties of intimacy and sexual etiquette.
Troops in all branches of the military are being counseled about coming out of the desert and courting their mates.
The reunion briefings were prepared by the Department of the Army and are being distributed to military chaplains and community service personnel. Called the "Guide to Developing and Conducting Reunion Programs," it's divided into lesson plans.
"For your partner, your fascination with pictures of OTHER women naked may cause some misunderstanding," warns the U.S. Army in Part II, Section A of the "Re-establishing Intimacy Lesson Plan."
But even the perpetrators of the new world order don't have all the answers. "If you choose to be sexually intimate with someone else while on deployment, should you tell your wife or girlfriend . . . well, we can't give you a 'yes' or 'no' answer."
Instead, the Army asks Persian Gulf war veterans to consider: "Who benefits from you telling and what are your reasons for telling? Is it to relieve your guilt feelings or is it that somehow in the telling, your relationship back home will be strengthened? Also, what are the risks of not telling?"
Evidently the Army feels that red-blooded American fighting men gotta do what they gotta do. The guide uses quotation marks around "unfaithful" as if it were a quaint idea. Wives are advised to "swallow your curiosity."
"Don't grill him about real or imagined affairs," advises the list of Homecoming Tips for wives. "Don't poke around his belongings looking for 'clues.'"
Anyone reading the "Re-Establishing Intimacy" Lesson Plan, Part III, Subsection B, Subheading "Roadblocks to Satisfying Sex" will find out what Saddam Hussein learned weeks ago about the Army's sense of humor:
"Experimentation and new positions . . . give it time, she may be suspicious of where you learned about these ideas! (ha, ha)."
No question, though, that the organization knows whom it's talking to.
"Clean up your language," insists the "Single Soldier" Lesson Plan, Part IV ("Relationships"), Subsection C ("Helpful Hints"), Point 3 ("Remember, you've been away from this scene for several months"): "Certain words may be acceptable in the field, however, aren't appropriate for a first meeting. Personal habits might need 'spiffing up.' Are you chewing or spitting tobacco?"
Or maybe the Army doesn't know whom it's talking to -- or even what it's talking about. The final tip for re-establishing intimacy tells former warriors that "talking about sex can be fun itself."