LEADERSHIP? DERELICTION OF DUTY? OR, INSANITY?
By Andy Weddington
Wednesday, 08 December 2010
"When I was the commanding officer of [unit removed] for 2-years we probably discharged a dozen for the same reason. Things got tough and PFC Smith wanted to go home, so he said he was gay and BOOM... discharged. Multiply this by all the other [like commands] and it would be interesting to see how many punched out under DADT because it was the easy way out. And of course these are the stats they hold up to show how many people were "lost" due to DADT...crazy." Anonymous Marine colonel
Readers wasted little time opining about Sunday's Commentary titled, "No One Asked, One's Telling; Anyway." The distinction between moral objection and bias and move afoot to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) struck a nerve; nary a dissenter.
When starting this weekly Commentary more than two years ago I vowed to keep it honest while sometimes pointed but respectful, gentlemanly, and professional. Some topics have been easy. Others have required considerable self-control and patience, setting strong emotions and anger aside, to find the right words suitable for the public arena from a Marine colonel. That said, I am pleasantly pleased my readers don't feel the same sense of duty when offering their sentiments to me. Their written and oral words to me on DADT repeal candid. How to relay their collective opinion in today's Commentary posed a problem. I think I solved it.
Here's a four-point Executive Summary that politely captures their strong, colorful opinions: 1) Marines are not happy; 2) Marines et. al. think DADT repeal is wrong; 3) Morality cannot be legislated nor ordered; and 4) Core issue is national security--DADT repeal will destroy cohesion and readiness of our military forces thereby degrading our safety.
That's the Executive Summary.
Now--drawing on texting shorthand for the most succinct, non-offensive format I could think of to capture it--the Executive Summary of the Executive Summary: The 23rd, 20th, and 6th letters, in that order, of our English alphabet followed by a question mark and exclamation point. Any questions?
Thinking still more about last week's hearings and the Westat survey another thought came to mind while bantering with a retired Marine. Those words...
"Most importantly, this whole concept of "minimal risk" is absurd. Let me get this straight...proponents advocate that because a homosexual wants to serve risking serious injury or death--whether in training or combat--that, in and of itself, is grounds for change to allow such? That, while there is ample voice from the field, whether in the survey or not, saying homosexuals [serving openly] in our units is not a good idea. And that sentiment's especially strong in the Marine Corps.
And, some pinheads conclude, from a miniscule sampling of the population (that is arguably statistically insignificant), "risk is minimal" (noted greater risk in combat-arms units) and allowing homosexuals to serve openly is doable. Then I ask the bottom line question, "Is the risk--no matter what it is--fair to a unit of Marines (or any branch of service unit) who have also volunteered to risk injury and life to recklessly (and arguably exponentially) increase their risk because a social misfit--who will negatively impact unit cohesion and readiness--wants to serve?" To me, it's unconscionable. And I bet the mothers and fathers of America who lend us their children support any and all measures that will advance the odds of their sons and daughters not being injured or killed--in training or combat. Why don't we survey them as well? And, encourage them to engage with their Representative and Senator."
Sunday's Commentary mentioned a note a Marine lieutenant leading a platoon in combat in Afghanistan had written to our Commandant, General James Amos, opining about DADT repeal. General Amos read that note during his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) last Friday. While preparing Sunday's Commentary, I failed in my search for the lieutenant's words. I found them Monday evening...
"...my team's effectiveness is directly tied to its cohesiveness...despite differences, we are so close that we anticipate each other's next move in garrison and in combat. Our ability to do our job is predicated on this kind of close relationship. If you were to add any element of sexual competition, sexuality, or hesitance in trust, it would unquestionably prevent those bonds from forming or immediately destroy them..."
And, again, those the thoughts of a seasoned Marine lieutenant with multiple combat tours behind him. Keep in mind, that while we sit back in the states enjoying near absolute safety and prepare to celebrate Christmas, most folks will only cursorily give the war a passing thought, if that much. While, around the clock, an enemy, and a determined one at that, is trying to kill that lieutenant and his Marines. Might he know something about DADT repeal that a committee of Senators, many of whom have never worn a uniform, don't, can't possibly, and never will know? A definitive nod goes to the young combatant in the real arena--whose "selfishness" revolves around survival and the safety of his Marines; not political longevity.
To put the absurdity of DADT repeal into still further meaningful context against the Westat survey, since the DADT policy was put into place in 1993 the Marine Corps has discharged some 625,000 from the ranks. The overwhelming majority separated honorably either by reaching the end of their enlistment, obligated commissioned service, medically retired due to combat injuries or some other affliction, or retiring after 20+ years of service marked by more sacrifices and hardships than the average citizen can conjure up much less comprehend. Over the course of the last 17 years, ever-so-slightly more than 1,300 discharges (of the 625,000), that's .002, were carried out in compliance with DADT policy. Not quite a third of those 1,300, not yet entitled to be called "Marine" mind you, were separated during entry-level training; they were looking for an easy way out.
From my nonparametric statistics courses days--though more than three decades ago, math still works the same--that constitutes a statistically insignificant population. And for that our nation's "leadership" is willing to risk the safety of roughly 2.2 million Americans--our warrior class? Who volunteer to wear our country's uniform and step into harm's way to protect more than 300 million of us calling the United States home?
As I recall in the Westat findings, estimates reached upwards of 15-20% (higher percentages were in the Marine Corps) would seriously consider leaving the military were DADT repealed. Think about it. That's between 330,000 and 440,000--a staggering number--even the smaller number makes for a cohort far surpassing the combined Active Duty and Reserve force of the Marine Corps. It's disconcerting if even only half that number, or half again that number, were to drop their packs and weapons and walk away. And contrasting that problem to appease what? To appease whom? A minority whose presence, in the big scheme of national security, makes no difference. Are you kidding? Are you comfortable with that, America? If so, carry on. If concerned, contact your Representative and Senator--immediately.
This is one of those unique, rare, arguably one-of-a-kind instances that the practice of democracy in the name of protecting democracy can only be categorized as pure, unadulterated lunacy.
Following is the third of a short three-paragraph "NationBriefs" article out of Washington, D.C., that appeared in 'The Desert Sun' (Palms Springs, CA) on Monday, 06 December 2010 under the header "'Don't ask' ousters fall sharply this year": "No military personnel have been removed for being openly gay or lesbian [homosexual] since the Obama administration announced in October that discharges would be carried out only with the approval of senior civilian officials in the Defense Department, according to Cynthia Smith, a Pentagon spokeswoman." Note: [Bracketed] material inserted by author.
What? No longer do commanding officers--captains, majors, lieutenant colonels, colonels, and generals (and Navy and Coast Guard counterparts)--who know their business about military readiness, and specifically what is best for their units and force, have the final authority to recommend and separate homosexuals per DADT policy? If this is true, stunning and unbelievable. So much for the "Special trust and confidence..." emblazoned on officer promotion certificates.
During last Thursday's testimony when asked about a potential exodus of a significant number of servicemen and women from the force, and more challenging recruiting, should DADT be repealed, Secretary of Defense Gates answered those serving are under contract and cannot just walk away so that's not so much an immediate problem.
But the next two-part question not asked of Secretary Gates that should have been is, "So, Mr. Secretary, if you're intending to shove a policy--especially one that cuts to the core of morality and makes for radical cultural change of which we know there is strong objection--down the throats of the force, don't you think it only fair to give them an opportunity to end their service immediately? After all, would we not be breaking the contract under which they voluntarily enlisted or accepted a commission?"
What, if anything, of intellectual merit could have possibly been profferred?
Granted, folks who have invested much of their adult lives in service to country may grit their teeth and bear the nonsense (as some did during the Clinton years) until first opportunity to retire. But many, namely young enlisted and junior officers with minimal investment and bright futures, would surely opt to leave. And maybe still others not so much based on DADT repeal but using it as cover to preclude another deployment. Whatever the numbers opting to walk and whatever their personal reasons, there'd surely be a dangerous void at a time when this country cannot afford a weakened military.
In essence, the Secretary of Defense was saying, 'We have them captive--prisoners.' Anyone else wondering if American law firms would come running to the aid of our military men and women as quickly as they did to defend terrorists attacking our country or illegals? How damn ironic. And sickening.
Further, anyone who believes recruiting would not be more difficult were DADT repealed is delusional. Sunday's commentary included a closing word by a retired Marine who said he'd do everything he could to discourage his son from becoming a Marine if DADT was repealed. That's quite a remarkable, sobering statement.
And think no further than a young non-commissioned officer on recruiting duty, under incredible pressure of quotas, trying to convince God-fearing parents, with tremendous influence over the decisions of their children, there's no issue with homosexuals serving openly--when such is in direct conflict with their beliefs, and they've heard credible opinions to the contrary as to degraded cohesion and unit readiness. With their son or daughter's future and personal safety in mind, is there any doubt they'd turn to young Billy or Brenda and say, "Dear, have you thought about this? And have you thought about that? Here's what we think."
If a Marine parent would discourage their child from service it's only logical a parent without a military background would have strong reservations and be more difficult to convince; regardless of how slick the sales pitch. Wisdom comes from aging, maturity, and life experience. Children, by and large, listen to their parents; at least when it comes to important life-changing decisions. Enough said.
The law says the United States armed forces are a special section of society. And that special section of society is, by necessity--in order to maintain good order and discipline for building cohesive and effective units, held to far higher standards than society at-large. So necessary are these higher standards they, along with the consequences for breaching them, are codified in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. For the unfamiliar, yes, there are offenses in military life that are not crimes in civilian life.
Today there is no law that requires a citizen to serve in the United States military. Ours, envy of the world, is an All-Volunteer Force. Though a retired Marine with command time in recruiting wrote me, in response to Sunday's Commentary, it's more accurately an "All-Recruited Force." And he offered a catchy mantra he used to motivate his Marines charged with canvassing the countryside for recruits, "First to Contact, First to Contract." Noted. Both excellent points. But, the operative word is "volunteer." And repeal of DADT would most definitely change "volunteer" dynamics.
The fight against DADT repeal is not a condemnation of homosexuality, per se. Rather it's unapologetically a condemnation of homosexuality and the lifestyle's incompatibility with the unique demands required of service in America's military--a force without peer, as to culture and capability, on the globe.
It matters not what goes on in other countries (and their militaries) because 1) Their culture is not American; and 2) None have 24/7 global responsibilities; whether keeping peace, waging war, or offering humanitarian assistance during natural disaster--sometimes performing all three missions simultaneously in different corners of the planet. That is, there is no country nor military force on which to draw valid comparisons.
Homosexuals know the DADT policy. There is no argument, not even a weak one--stemming from survey nor anecdotal evidence, supporting a position that repeal will strengthen unit cohesion and readiness. Fact is data and anecdotal evidence clearly supports the contrary. To the chagrin of many, and though DADT has worked adequately, a more sane case can be made for returning to pre-DADT policy.
As for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy--being homosexual and wanting to serve in the military, homosexual and in the military, or supporting homosexuals serving openly in the military--"Don't Like, Don't Serve."
Quit. Resign. Retire. Whatever. Move on. Just be gone.
National security, repeat, national security is the issue.
Simple as that.
Does it matter what a retired Marine colonel has to say? Hardly. Thousands of retired generals and admirals weighing in to denounce repeal are barely getting attention. But I enjoy the freedom--right and privilege--to speak and feel a compelling sense of duty to do so. To not strongly opine, albeit with civility, would be unforgiveable cowardice. No one will ever accuse me of being coward. Ever.
The author rests.
Take a few minutes to watch and listen to the astute thoughts of a concerned Marine who knows a little about the issue--an interview with the 30th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Carl Mundy, USMC (Retired): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwYZWIeAgJs
I've never met General Mundy but hold him in high regard. You'll understand why after digesting what this battle-tested Marine has to say.
After the SASC hearings last week, a retired Marine told me his retired Marine father, deceased for some years now, jostled him from his sleep to address this matter. In a deliberate, unwavering, haunting voice he issued a marching order, "Son, please tell the Commandant to stand his ground."