Jan. 6, 2006 — -- Cloaked in camouflage and no bigger than a breadbox, a new addition to many soldiers' backpacks is a five-book kit intended to "help men and women find freedom from sexual temptation God's way."
The kits -- from New Life Ministries, which broadcasts on 150 stations nationwide -- promote Bible-based abstinence: no pornography, adultery, nonmarital sex or masturbation.
"Your goal is sexual purity," the text says. "You are sexually pure when no sexual gratification comes from anyone or anything but your wife."
Each kit comes with an "Every Man's Battle" book and workbook for men or an "Every Woman's Battle" book and workbook for women, plus a Bible study guide and a daily devotional.
Divorce rates in the military have risen, especially in the Army, where the number of divorces nearly doubled from 2001 to 2004, according to the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland.
Chaplain Randy Brandt, stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany, said the kits have helped combat the "problem of pornography."
"Even while we were in Iraq, the pervasion of this problem was evident -- soldiers had porno CDs they could play on their personal DVDs, and they had sexually suggestive magazines "graciously" donated for the soldiers' entertainment," Brandt said. "The problem is an age-old one with the military: Soldiers are far away from home for a long time, sexual frustration sets in, and the visual stimuli become the easiest release."
But Brandt said the real problem starts when the soldiers return home.
"The soldiers come home, many are addicted to this type of sexual stimulation and either consciously or subconsciously they begin to compare their current relationship with the visual/Internet/virtual reality that they are used to and unfortunately, the real woman -- wife or girlfriend -- rarely can measure up," Brandt said.
New Life hopes its kits will replace pornography and keep soldiers focused on their spouses and families back home, so that the transition from battle to domestic life goes a little easier.
Spokesman Larry Sonnenburg said the Christian group has shipped 11,000 kits, mainly to Iraq and Afghanistan. But increasingly, troops at home are requesting the kits. Total orders now number nearly 20,000.
The battle kits began with a call earlier this year to New Life Ministries from Michael Music, a chaplain's assistant with a Navy unit then in Iraq.
Because of long deployments and because more soldiers are married, the chaplain has focused more than before on the sexual lives of soldiers.
Although pornography remains a pervasive problem, said the chaplains, the bigger problem is the crisis it produces in the military psyche.
Sgt. Frank Aguilar, who organizes Bible studies at Fort Heachuca, Ariz., said he hoped the kits would bring his unit together once it's deployed to Iraq.
"Whatever happens over there will happen," Aguilar said. "I just want to go with a platoon and have tools to prepare us that makes us closer, and we will have less problems. These problems may seem trivial, but it ends up affecting the whole unit."