Recently, I underwent the Army’s mandatory “Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” training. As a Regular Army Officer and proud professional, I am not allowed to have a public opinion at odds with this policy change, according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This is for a number of good reasons I won’t elaborate here. I do believe, however, that as a citizen of this great Republic and one of its servants it behooves me to elaborate what that policy is, according to the training which I received, to the general public who, I also believe, is generally ignorant of the facts.
I will be doing my very best to not editorialize here. One, because I can’t, and two because I want folks to make up their own minds. As a leader I have often been forced by circumstances to tell my soldiers to shut up and color, in other words, there comes a time when a leader must end the debate and suggestion period which his subordinates OWE him and make a decision and stick to it. Likewise, subordinates owe it to a leader to offer their advice and perspective from their foxhole and, once the decision is made, to execute it with violence and élan, whether or not they agree with it.
This training session was led by our company commander and monitored by the battalion commander. Our company is unique, since it is around 150 company and field grade officers and senior NCO’s. It was made very clear, both verbally and in the introductory movie filmed by General Casey that we were there, not to debate the moral issue, but to learn how to implement the policy change. As the JAG put it, not to change belief but to change behavior to be in line with policy. There was no information given on the morality of the decision in the training and questions that trended to that direction were pretty quickly re-directed. It was also made clear that our public support was seen as vital to good order and discipline within the Army and that we would not be allowed to pick and choose which policies we would and would not support, subject to UCMJ.
The first training point was that sexual orientation would not fall under the same rules as other things such as race, religion, ethnicity, etc. Complaints that involve sexual orientation will not be handled by the Equal Opportunity office as possible discrimination, but by the Inspector General as a possible policy violation.
The second key point is there can be no consideration given in regards to assignment, enlistment, retention or housing based on sexual orientation. If a straight soldier has an issue with being housed in a barracks with a homosexual soldier, I, as the commander of that unit, could not move him to another room based solely on that issue. I would have to exhaust all efforts to retrain both soldiers and, if I moved one, it would have to be based on other reasons. Official policy in all things must be gender neutral in decision making.
The third point was that, because of the Defense of Marriage Act, there would be no recognition of homosexual partners as dependants. Even if they have a marriage license from a state that recognizes homosexual marriage, the military is barred by Federal law from extending dependant status (ID card, PX privileges, married housing, family separation pay, BAH at the “with dependants” rate, etc). Those benefits where the recipient is elective, such as SGLI, certain death benefits, etc may already be named to anyone the soldier wishes, not just dependants of next of kin.
These were the main points of the training. For more information, I would suggest the DOD’s Public Affairs website.