Daily Archives: February 5, 2010

I Agree With Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates on “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”

Note: This is an article that many will not agree with me on.  I know this and write it anyway because I feel it is the right thing to do and also support the highest leaders in my military chain of command in what will be a contentious and acrimonious debate. I know that people on both sides of this issue are sincere in what they believe and if my position is in opposition to others I mean no disrespect. My position comes from 28 plus years in the military in which I have both served with and commanded homosexual soldiers who were stellar individuals and soldiers.  Likewise as a chaplain I have dealt with, served with and cared for homosexual Soldiers, Marines and Sailors who in order to serve were and still are forced to cover up an essential part of their life in order to serve in the military, deploy in harm’s way and risk all to serve our country. While some readers may not agree with me I do hope that people will not simply write off what I have to say because of their passionately held beliefs. I do believe that people can disagree and debate but at the end of the day we are all still Americans.  I dedicate this post to the service of the homosexual men and women with whom I have served and continue to serve among. I pray that they will be able to serve openly without fear of retribution.

I have been in the military 28 plus years having served in the Army, Army National Guard, Army Reserve and the Navy. In my Navy career I have served multiple times with the Marines and also Navy EOD. I have been a platoon leader, company executive officer, company commander, and battalion, brigade and group staff officer.  I have served two tours in combat zones as an advisor to US Navy boarding teams before Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as working with our Marine, Army, Navy and Air Force advisers in Al Anbar Province.  In the course of my career I have served alongside of many homosexual Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors.  With very few exceptions I found them to be selfless, patriotic, professionals who had to live a lie in order to serve the country that they love.

When Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates announced their support to end the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law that in effect says that homosexuals are allowed to serve as long as they lie about who they are I was pleased.  I have known so many professional, patriotic and selfless men and women who as military servicemen and women have had to lie about an essential part of who they are in order to serve that I felt horrible for the fact that they had to hide who they are or face removal from the service.   Even if they served with distinction and rose to the highest ranks as was the case with some and did not cause problems that they could be discharged from the military for either admitting their sexual preference or having someone “turn them in.”  Of course either under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was enough end their career and was something that I found to be both cruel and hypocritical.

I was platoon leader, company executive officer, company commander and brigade and battalion staff officer in the Army prior to becoming a Chaplain.  As such I dealt with military justice, military law and personnel policies as well as the management of soldiers diagnosed as HIV positive.  As the Adjutant of the Academy Brigade of the Academy of Health Sciences I worked with commanders and prosecutors the first case where a heterosexual soldier was convicted of intentionally spreading the HIV virus in 1987.  I dealt with the heartbreaking cases of career soldiers who found out that they had tested positive for that virus simply because I was the junior personnel officer in the organization and those senior to me at the schoolhouse did not want to meet these men.  I helped draft with members of the Office of the Surgeon General the Army policy on managing personnel with HIV and AIDS.

In my career I have known many honorable, decent and even yes “Christian” soldiers, sailors and Marines who were homosexual. In fact the vast majority of them were less trouble, less promiscuous and better soldiers, Marines or Sailors than their peers.  Even so they could not then and still cannot openly admit to their sexual preference.  My take is that in this age of where so many people are willing to say “I support the Troops” a yellow ribbon in their yard or decal on their car but unwilling to sign on the dotted line that it is wrong to forbid homosexuals to serve without fear of being discharged for admitting that they are gay for their sexual preference alone.  I feel that a man or woman who wants to serve our country knowing that we are at war and that they will likely be deployed into a combat zone should be allowed to so long as they meet the same standards that every other military member must meet in order to serve.  To me the issue is about conduct and performance and not someone’s sexual preference.  From a professional point of view this comes down to a matter of military personnel exhibiting professional conduct and behavior and not to their sexual preference.  So long as they are not making unwanted sexual advances in the workplace, not using command influence to force people into unwanted sex nor being so promiscuous that their conduct off base jeopardizes compromises them or jeopardizes national security that they should be allowed to serve openly. These are exactly the same standards applied to heterosexuals.  If they violate them then like any other Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airman they should be disciplined.   I do not believe that various religious groups and political parties or even veterans groups should have veto power over this should the study commissioned by the SECDEF determine that the change will not cause undue disruption in the force or compromise our ability to successfully wage war and the Congress change the law to allow them to serve openly.

Twenty-five other countries including Israel and much of NATO allow openly homosexual men and women to serve and this has not impeded the professionalism of their military. Those countries are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Uruguay. Many of the soldiers from these nations currently serve alongside of American forces in Afghanistan and have been in Iraq.  Additionally the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency all allow openly homosexual men and women to serve in their ranks.

I liked Admiral Mullen’s blog http://www.jcs.mil/newsarticle.aspx?ID=221 and could not agree more with the Admiral.  I can say that I have served alongside homosexuals since the time that I enlisted. For the most part they have been hard working, honest and decent people who I would have loved to have as a neighbor or friend.  Like any other segment of humanity there have been some that I did not think should be in the military but this was not to their sexual preference but rather their performance and conduct.  Simply put some people regardless of sexual preference do not have what it takes to serve in the military.  If they cannot cut being in the military due to bad physical conditioning, lack of the brainpower needed to function in a high tech military or medical reasons, past criminal conduct or associations with groups opposed to the government, they should not be allowed to serve.  I don’t care if they are heterosexual, homosexual or vegisexual if they meet service criteria to serve they should be allowed to serve. Likewise if someone is willing to endure multiple deployments knowing the reality that they will serve in harm’s way and are willing to do so for King and Country I definitely think that they should be allowed to do so without penalty. I do not see the military seeking to throw out every heterosexual who has committed adultery, have sexual additions of various sorts or who have relationships that if are not outright fraternization are awfully close; all of which violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  Thus it puzzles me as to why homosexuals, especially those in a committed and stable relationship should be held to a higher standard than heterosexual who are not.   If the standard is conduct then the rules need to apply equally to all in an equitable manner.

To me as a Christian, Priest and career military officer it seems hypocritical to ask homosexuals to lie about a major part of their lives in order to serve on active duty and then if they do “come out of the closet” to bring them up on charges or discharge them because they seek to be honest about their sexual preference. When one takes a look at some the rather distinguished careers of some of those discharged, men and women who have served bravely in combat and been effective leaders it seems that the policy is flawed. It makes men and women who volunteer to serve the country in time of war to live a lie, in other words make them commit a violation of integrity in order to serve. What if the same standard was applied to other personal beliefs?  Can you imagine the outcry if Christians were told that in order to serve in the military that they could not do anything to acknowledge their faith even off base or in their home? Can you imagine the outcry if someone who is the member of a legal and legitimate political or social group such as those who are part of the pro-life movement or any other religious or moral cause being told that they will be discharged if they acknowledge their beliefs with a bumper sticker supporting their cause?   What “don’t ask don’t tell” tells people that if they want to serve that they cannot be honest about where they are.  Fundamentally is tells them that they should violate personal integrity in order to serve in a manner that is not applied to others who have beliefs or viewpoints that may be controversial or even serve to cause discord in the ranks.  Cases in point are military members who identify themselves as such on Neo-Nazi websites, such behavior and beliefs are certainly more potentially more dangerous to the military than homosexuality.

To be sure “throughout its existence, the United States military has viewed homosexuality as being incompatible with military service. The military identified sodomy as grounds for a dishonorable discharge under the Articles of War adopted in 1776, though it did not identify homosexuality as a “status” until 1942. During the Carter Administration, the “no exception” policy was adopted, officially banning homosexuals from military service.”[i]

“A Navy study, popularly referred to as the Crittenden Report, concluded as early as “1957 that homosexual service members did not pose a greater security risk than heterosexual personnel.” The Secretary of the Navy appointed a board to evaluate the Navy’s policies and procedures governing homosexual service members. No major changes were recommended, in part because of the military’s reluctance to “liberalize standards ahead of the civilian climate.”

The findings did acknowledge that many more homosexuals were likely serving in the Armed Forces than the small number that had been involuntarily discharged. The report noted that “there have been many known instances of individuals who have served honorably and well, despite being exclusively homosexual.”

The board also found no factual data to support the premise that homosexual service members “necessarily” posed a security risk. Research indicated that factors unrelated to sexual orientation constituted security risks and that the type of sexual activity mattered less than the “matter of indiscretion.” “According to the report, intelligence officers sometimes considered heterosexual relations more of a security threat than homosexual conduct.”  See the PDF of the Crittenden report at:

http://www.lonelygods.com/res/crittenden_report.pdf

[ii]

From what I see in the ranks the younger generation of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen are much more open-minded about homosexuals in the military than my generation and those immediately following mine.  It is doubtlessly true that some would not be comfortable around openly homosexual servicemen and women but it is also true that many of the same service members serve alongside homosexuals presently without conflict or any major issues.  However as both Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates noted it is best to actually hear from the troops as we look at the issue and be prudent in the way the change is done.  It is far more preferable to let the military examine the issue and come up with a plan than it is to allow special interest groups of any kind and politicians to decide the issue by legislative fiat be it to keep “don’t ask don’t tell” or to allow openly homosexual men and women to serve in the military.  The Israeli experience may actually help the U.S. military in dealing with the issue. In 1993 Israel removed “all restrictions on gay and lesbian soldiers were dropped. Homosexuals in the Israel Defense Forces could join close-knit combat units or serve in sensitive intelligence posts. They were eligible for promotion to the highest ranks. Fourteen years later, Israelis are convinced they made the right decision. “It’s a non-issue,” said David Saranga, a former IDF officer and now Israel’s consul for media and public affairs in New York. “There is not a problem with your sexual tendency. You can be a very good officer, a creative one, a brave one and be gay at the same time.”” [iii]

Attitudes in the ranks have changed since the 1990s like the rest of the country military personnel are now more comfortable with openly homosexual personnel.  A Zogby poll conducted in 2006 noted that “nearly three in four troops (73%) say they are personally comfortable in the presence of gays and lesbians. Of the 20% who said they are uncomfortable around gays and lesbians, only 5% are “very” uncomfortable, while 15% are “somewhat” uncomfortable. Just two percent of troops said knowing that gays are not allowed to serve openly was an important reason in their decision to join the military.” http://www.zogby.com/NEWS/readnews.cfm?ID=1222

Having served for nearly 29 years I think that the numbers in the poll are reflective of the military population.  A CNN-Gallup Poll of 4-6 May 2007 reported that “Seventy-nine percent of poll respondents said openly gay people should be allowed to serve in the military. Eighteen percent said they should not.” http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/06/27/poll.gay/index.html If we indeed are a republic that reflects the views of the people then maybe politicians and special interest groups need to listen to military men and women as well as the country at large.  I have listened to arguments on both sides of the issue and while in 1993 I agreed at “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was the right way to go I do not agree with some of the arguments used to maintain the present law like people ogling each other in the showers. Since most showers even in combat zones have separate stalls it is a straw man argument which appeals to emotion rather than appealing to fact.  Likewise comments such as those by Oliver North insinuating if gays were allowed to openly serve in the military that: Now, here’s what’s next. NAMBLA members, same-sex marriages. Are chaplains in the U.S. military going to be required to perform those kinds of rituals? Do they get government housing?[iv] North’s comment is simply incendiary especially in regard to the question about chaplains being “required” to perform “these types of rituals” is not rooted in any fact as no chaplain is required to perform rites or sacraments that go against what his or her church or religious body teaches nor their personal beliefs.  To suggest otherwise is simply disingenuous.

An interesting study by a student at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College making the point to change the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law is found here:

http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA508994&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf

This is a subject that needs to be addressed because it deals with patriot Americans who desire to serve their country in time of war. I pray that the law will be changed and that when the times comes for that change that people will not act in an acrimonious manner but instead be thankful that these men and women are willing to serve when so many are not. I know that some will totally disagree with my reasoning and that I will likely get some flak for this position, but I find the arguments of the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to have merit and to be reasonable and should at least be examined in a dispassionate matter by the military before any decision is made by Congress.

Peace,

Steve+


[i] Captain M Suhre, Changing the Department of Defense’s Policy on Homosexuals Marine Corps Command and Staff College 19 February 2008 retrieved from

http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA508994&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf 5 Feb 2010

[ii] The Crittendon Report: Report of the Board Appointed to Prepare and Submit Recommendations to the Secretary of the Navy for the Revision of Policies, Procedures and Directives Dealing with Homosexuals 21 December 1956- 15 March 1957. Retrieved from http://www.lonelygods.com/res/crittenden_report.pdf 5 February 2010

[iii] Martin, Susan Taylor. Israeli experience may sway US Army policy on gays retrieved from http://www.glbtjews.org/article.php3?id_article=361 5 February 2010

[iv] Oliver North on the Sean Hannity Show retrieved at

http February ://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,584942,00.html 5 February 2010

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