- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Four branches of the military have begun sending training material to 2.2 million active and reserve troops as a prelude to opening the ranks to gays, with instructions on, for example, what to do if an officer sees two male Marines kissing in a shopping mall.

Key themes are that sexual orientation will no longer be a bar to service, that all service members must respect each other, and that the partners of gay troops will not receive the benefits of heterosexual spouses.

“We are going to make [gay ban] repeal training expeditiously,” said Maj. Joel Harper, an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon. “It’s great training.”

The briefings first target commanders, who will have to enforce the new law and deal with disputes, and then the entire force. The slides, vignettes and talking points by the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps are similar.

The Marine Corps, which a Pentagon survey found holds deep opposition to lifting the ban, plans to publicly release its training material April 1. A Marine source provided copies to The Washington Times.

The vignette about seeing two male Marines kissing is part of a list of scenarios to help instructors prepare commanders for incidents likely to arise.

“Situation,” it begins. “You are the Executive Officer of your unit. While shopping at the local mall over the weekend, you observe two junior male Marines in appropriate civilian attire assigned to your unit kissing and hugging in the food court.

“Issue: Standards of Conduct. Is this within standards of personal and professional conduct?”

The answer to Marines: “If the observed behavior crosses acceptable boundaries as defined in the standards of conduct for your unit and the Marine Corps, then an appropriate correction should be made. Your assessment should be made without regard to sexual orientation.”

The vignettes’ talking point states that commanders cannot rule a bar off limits simply because it caters to gays. Nor can commanders bar an off-duty homosexual from marching in civilian clothes in a gay-pride parade.

A Marine recruiter may not refuse to induct a gay civilian even though he views it as violating his religious beliefs. Commanders may honor a request not to shower with known gay service members.

“Marines are expected to obey lawful orders and could be subject to discipline or adverse administrative action if they refuse orders, even if such refusal is based on strong, sincerely held, moral or religious beliefs,” the briefing states.

The briefings were dispatched to service members worldwide, including to combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan, as part of a major indoctrination program ordered by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to ensure that gays and heterosexuals will serve and fight together.

President Obama signed legislation to repeal the military’s ban on open gays. Once training is completed this summer, Mr. Gates must certify to Congress that repeal will not hurt readiness before the ban officially ends.

The Service members Legal Defense Network, which led a long effort in Washington to kill the ban, said the military is taking too long to finish the training.

“By and large, the materials are on target,” said Aubrey Sarvis, the group’s executive director. “Where we take exception is with the timeline that the Army has articulated for completing training as late as August. We believe training can be wrapped up by the end of next month, especially given the fact that there will be an additional 60 days for training that may take place after certification.”

In another scenario outlined in the Marine material, a lesbian Marine approaches her platoon sergeant and states “she can no longer tolerate her heterosexual roommate.”

The answer: “The Platoon Sergeant must take a very active and positive leadership approach with a focus on conflict resolution and professional obligations to uphold the policy.”

A separate training guide answers 23 frequently asked questions, such as “is consensual sodomy still a punishable offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice?”

Answer: “The U.S. Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces found that private, consensual sexual activity, to include consensual sodomy, regardless of sexual orientation, is a protected liberty under the Fourteenth Amendment.”

On the question of whether transgender or transsexual individuals may join the military, the answer: “No. Transgender and transsexual individuals are not permitted to join the Military Services. The repeal of DADT has no effect on these policies.”

The main slide presentations emphasize that chaplains will be free to express their views on homosexuality.

“Free exercise of religious expression, with law and policy, remains unchanged,” says one Army slide.

Soldiers may not seek an early discharge because they do not want to live or serve with gays. Same-sex partners of service members do not qualify for medical, housing or travel benefits.

A “speaker’s note” accompanying the Army slides states, “This brief is NOT an attempt to change anyone’s opinion or beliefs about the subject of homosexuality. However, we as an Army must always remember our Army values and respect each other’s beliefs in order to accomplish the mission.”

George Wright, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said the service is posting on an internal website a variety of training aids on the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” as the ban is known.

“Training on the repeal of DADT began last month with ‘chain-teaching’ at the senior levels, and the materials have been made available to Army commanders worldwide, to include those in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

At a Pentagon teleconference from Kabul last month, the top U.S. enlisted man there said training will take place during combat operations.

“Our goal is to not allow a unit to return to home station and have the unit responsible for that,” said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill. “While we own those soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, we’re going to execute that training on the ground. We hope that it will have little impact on their combat and security operations here.”

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