WASHINGTON, DC - Boot Camp just got a little bit harder.
Military officials announced that Basic Training dining facilities will stop adding saltpeter to their meals, as part of sweeping efforts to reduce dangerous substances in troops' diets.
The switch to saltpeter-free food is scheduled for March 1.
Saltpeter, or potassium nitrate, is an ionic salt added to rocket propellants, fireworks, and fertilizer. In the military, it has been used for centuries as a food additive that suppresses libido.
"Saltpeter's job is to keep erections down, but we determined that any benefits were outweighed by its potential to cause cancer, glandular issues, and disorders of the reproductive system," said Col. Germaine Thompson, a public health researcher at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
The practice of adding saltpeter to troops' food began during the Revolutionary War, according to Michael Blackstone, military historian and author of the bestselling Guns, Germs, and Whores.
"If you look at some paintings from the time, you'll see evidence of raging, uncontrollable erections," Blackstone said. "There's one depiction of a visibly disgusted General Washington inspecting his ranks and noticing the bulges."
"That's about the time when the Continental Army decided it needed to do something," Blackstone added.
Saltpeter was originally added to all troops' food, but after the Korean War, the practice was limited only to basic training dining facilities.
Some groups have criticized the Pentagon for the upcoming change, claiming that it stems from the recent decision to allow homosexuals to serve in the military.
"Now that we got the gays, the DoD don't want to impinge [sic] on their rights to get all turned on when they see other dudes," said Spc. Frank Alvarado, a paratrooper from the 101st Air Assault Division.
"I don't care what you do in private," Alvarado said, "but you come looking at me in the shower with a giant boner, I'm gonna double-leg you and ground and pound you. You're gonna wish you ate some saltpecker [sic]."
Thompson denied any such motive.
"A soldier, sailor, Marine, or airman not distracted by sex can concentrate solely on being a better servicemember," Thompson said. "In fact, gays in the military are those who need saltpeter the most, being surrounded by sexy dudes and all."
The policy change is expected to have a significant effect on the U.S. economy. Thousands of miners, factory workers, and truck drivers will lose their jobs, and saltpeter-related stocks are anticipated to take a sharp dive.
Dress uniforms will also have to be altered to allow extra room in the crotch, to accommodate what clothes manufacturers refer to as the "husband bulge." The uniform change alone will cost the military upwards of $450 million.
Nevertheless, Thompson stands by the military's decision.
"In the end, we have to do the right thing," Thompson said, "and in this case, the right thing is to let our boys be healthy, strong, and stiff as a guidon pole."