Controversy sparked recently over a bizarre incident that saw a US Army officer drugged in Poland. The incident followed wild celebrations of a group of soldiers from the Combat Aviation Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division’s 101st Aviation Regiment’s 1st “No Mercy” battalion. Around 40 members of the battalion went for a two-day World War Two battlefields trip to Gdansk, which ended with one officer missing after the night out.
According to Stars and Stripes, at the end of the first day soldiers decided to gather for dinner at the American Bar ‘The White Rabbit Saloon’ at Chmielna Street and celebrate their sergeant major’s birthday. Later some soldiers decided to split up and visit other local bars on their way. Many of them consumed large quantities of alcohol, but managed to return to their hotels after midnight.
However, on the morning of the second day, it became obvious that the battalion’s executive officer, Maj. Matthew Conner was missing. Lt. Col. Matthew Fix, the battalion’s commander, and Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Winberry organized a search party. The group gathered in front of the Obsession (Strip) Club where Conner was last seen. Luckily, he was found in a different hotel and the group continued for their battlefield tour.
Conner’s testimony sheds some light on the events that took place the night before. When he went to the club he was supposedly drugged. His credit card was taken and swiped several times while strippers “bit his nipples to keep him awake”. An equivalent of $13,000 was stolen from his credit card.
The entire situation shows a lack of preparation for the trip and negligence of safety by the troops. Strip clubs in Poland are well-known for the nefarious practices of drugging people and stealing money through their credit cards. Besides that, the risk of COVID-19 transmission was not taken into consideration. Although new restrictions were introduced in Poland in October 2020, forcing restaurants and bars to close, new daily cases of the infection were around 500 per day in September, during the trip.
The US Army should focus on the intelligence preparation of its troops when they are travelling to foreign countries on non-operational trips. A lack of awareness can often lead to inappropriate situations and a lack of discipline fueled by alcohol is one of the most difficult problems to overcome for any army and the responsibility lays solely on the senior officers who failed to lead by example.
The lack of proper preparation and organisation of the trip led to a dangerous situation, that could potentially lead to much more dire consequences, and has resulted in Conner facing a review board.