DADT Repeal Training Proves Caliber of Military, Leaders Say

WASHINGTON — Two months into train­ing to allow gay men and les­bians to serve open­ly in the mil­i­tary, the lead­ers of all four ser­vices say imple­men­ta­tion is going well – some­thing they attribute to the cal­iber of today’s ser­vice mem­bers.
“Our train­ing is going very well,” Adm. Gary Roug­head, chief of naval oper­a­tions, told the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee today. “In those areas that we detect­ed may be at mod­er­ate risk — the expe­di­tionary forces — it is not at the lev­el we had orig­i­nal­ly fore­cast.

“The types of ques­tions we are get­ting reflect the matu­ri­ty, pro­fes­sion­al­ism and decen­cy of our peo­ple,” he added.

The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps began in Feb­ru­ary train­ing all of the nation’s 2.2 mil­lion ser­vice mem­bers to pre­pare for repeal of the law — known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — that pre­clud­ed gay men and les­bians from serv­ing open­ly in the mil­i­tary. Con­gress vot­ed for repeal in Decem­ber and Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma signed it into law. The change will not take effect until 60 days after the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sec­re­tary of defense, and pres­i­dent cer­ti­fy the military’s readi­ness to imple­ment the repeal. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarel­li, Marine Corps Com­man­dant Gen. James F. Amos, and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Nor­ton A. Schwartz joined Roug­head in report­ing to the com­mit­tee about how imple­men­ta­tion is going. All said train­ing is going well.

Chiarel­li, appear­ing on behalf of Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. who could not attend the hear­ing, said the Army has not com­plet­ed enough train­ing to say repeal of the law does­n’t come with some risk to readi­ness. But, he said, “We have put togeth­er a very, very good train­ing pack­age we believe will mit­i­gate that risk.”

While the ser­vices are con­duct­ing their own train­ing, all fol­low the guid­ance of the Defense Department’s com­pre­hen­sive work­ing group that found lim­it­ed risk for repeal in its report released late last year. The lead­ers said they are in reg­u­lar con­tact with Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen on the progress of the train­ing.

The department’s train­ing guid­ance cov­ers “99 per­cent of the issues” relat­ed to repeal of the law, Amos said.

The lead­ers described the train­ing as being three-tiered, begin­ning with spe­cial­ists such as chap­lains and lawyers, fol­lowed by lead­ers, and com­plet­ed with the force at large. Suc­cess of the train­ing “rests on the shoul­ders of our lead­ers,” Chiarel­li said. It fol­lows the “chain teach­ing” method, which places respon­si­bil­i­ty on com­man­ders to ensure that “all are prop­er­ly and suf­fi­cient­ly edu­cat­ed on this impor­tant pol­i­cy change, its poten­tial impact on them, and our expec­ta­tion of them,” he said.

Chiarel­li said Casey’s direc­tive on the repeal is clear: “Train­ing mat­ters most.”

Casey, flanked by four oth­er four-star gen­er­als, per­son­al­ly led the first train­ing ses­sion in Feb­ru­ary, Chiarel­li said, in which he also par­tic­i­pat­ed in.

“I can attest that this process works,” Chiarel­li said. “The sol­diers’ response so far has been gen­er­al­ly pos­i­tive, but we must assume there will be some resis­tance.

“We are mind­ful that if we are to mit­i­gate risks to readi­ness, recruit­ment and reten­tion, we must con­tin­ue to do this [train­ing] delib­er­ate­ly,” he added. “The entire process done prop­er­ly will take time.”

Train­ing is expect­ed to be com­plete by ear­ly sum­mer, the lead­ers said.

The Marine Corps, the small­est ser­vice with 202,000 mem­bers, has com­plet­ed all of Tiers 1 and 2 and have more than 40 per­cent of Tier 3 peo­ple trained, Amos said.

A depart­ment sur­vey last year showed that about 60 per­cent of Marines in com­bat units had con­cerns about the repeal, Amos not­ed, but those con­cerns seem to be wan­ing. The gen­er­al vis­it­ed with Marines in Afghanistan over Christ­mas and spoke with their com­man­der this morn­ing on the issue, he said.

“I’m look­ing specif­i­cal­ly for issues that might arise out of Tier 1 and Tier 2 and, frankly, we just haven’t seen it,” Amos said. “There has­n’t been the recal­ci­trant push back, the anx­i­ety about it” from forces in the field.

Amos said the Marines’ com­man­der told him, “ ‘Quite hon­est­ly, they’re focused on the ene­my.’ ”

The Air Force has trained about 117,000 air­men, so far, and Schwartz said he is less con­cerned about the change now than in Decem­ber when Oba­ma signed the law.

“The train­ing shows we are mit­i­gat­ing risk,” he said. “I am more com­fort­able than I was on the 22nd of Decem­ber, but we still have a ways to go, and it requires the atten­tion of all of us to bring this home.

“The stan­dards of con­duct you expect of all air­men — dig­ni­ty, respect, and equal oppor­tu­ni­ty, and ser­vice above self — they will not change,” Schwartz added. “We will imple­ment this with the same pro­fes­sion­al­ism that we put forth dai­ly in all our endeav­ors.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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