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Posted at 4:00 PM ET, 01/28/2011

Pentagon: Training on 'don't ask, don't tell' starts in Feb. for troops, commanders

By Ed O'Keefe

Using lectures, videos and PowerPoint slides, the Pentagon plans to start training commanders, chaplains and troops next month on how to adjust to a military that will allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in uniform, a critical step in ending the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, officials said Friday.

The new guidelines come as President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates vowed this week to lift the ban this year, a promise in line with the expectations of gay rights groups who are seeking a swift end to the policy.

Each of the military services will be responsible for the specifics of training, which will occur in three phases. Military chaplains, lawyers and civilian personnel will go first, followed by commanding officers and the rank-and-file. The services will focus on training troops before they deploy, but some training may take place on the battlefront, officials said.

"Moving along expeditiously is better than dragging it out," Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James E. Cartwright said Friday in a briefing with reporters.

The services must submit detailed training plans to Gates by next Friday. Training should focus on reminding troops to treat one another with respect, that no policy will be established solely based on sexual orientation and that harassment or unlawful discrimination of any service member is prohibited, he said in a memo instructing the changes.

Training is likely to be led by instructors, and may include written materials, videos, vignettes describing different elements of military life and PowerPoint slides outlining the changes. Each individual will need to certify that he or she completed the training, Cartwright said.

Obama, Gates and Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen should be able to certify that the military is ready to end the ban before every service member has been trained, Cartwright said, but neither he nor Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, would say how long they thought individual training sessions would last.

"When you're dealing with 2.5 million people, we're probably going to have some discoveries as we go," Cartwright said. Military leaders will meet every two weeks to review potential concerns or delays.

"We do take it seriously. It won't be a 'Here, read this' and move on," Cartwright said later.

Stanley said few, if any changes to military personnel policy and benefits programs are required, because the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits extending most medical, housing and travel benefits to same-sex partners. The Pentagon will continue to explore whether gay troops could designate same-sex partners as beneficiaries, he said in a memo outlining changes.

Once the ban is lifted, the military will no longer be able to remove troops for being gay and will cease investigations of troops who allegedly violated the policy, the memo said. Current military policy on free speech, religious expression and equal opportunity is also adequate, he said.

Service members discharged for violating "don't ask, don't tell" will be eligible to reenlist, but "there will be no preferential treatment" for them. Troops dismissed for violating the ban will not be eligible for retroactive pay, Stanley said.

There will be no new policy for releasing service members opposed to repealing the gay ban, but those in opposition may request voluntary discharges. Service members may already seek voluntary discharges if they wish to go to school or refuse to be transferred to a different location. Service secretaries could grant a discharge based on opposition to ending the ban if it's in the best interest of the service, Stanley said.

Officials did not know the expected costs of the training programs, but Gates promised to provide "adequate funding."

Gay rights groups hailed the Pentagon's plans.

"A brief training period for administrators and commanders is reasonable if it means that we will be done with this law forever immediately afterward," said Alexander Nicholson, president of Servicemembers United, one of several groups that pushed last year for an end to the ban.

"There is more work to be done regarding some important details and clarification of the timeline, but this is certainly a moment to step back, take a pause, and salute the armed forces for a job well done," said Aaron Belkin, executive director of the Palm Center, a California think tank that endorses the new policy.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said his group generally supports the plans, but wants the Defense Department to explore ways to expand more benefits to gay troops.

Critics warned Friday that the Pentagon is rushing too quickly to end the ban. Elaine Donnelly, founder of the Center for Military Readiness and a vocal opponent of changing the policy, said "scores of complicated issues and problems involving human sexuality" remain unresolved. "All of these problems will be loaded on the backs of trainers and field commanders, who will be expected to divert valuable time to deal with all of the negative consequences in the midst of ongoing wars," she said.

The changes outlined Friday are in line with the recommendations of a Pentagon report issued in November that said the repeal would present only a low risk to the armed forces' ability to carry out their missions.

The study group did not suggest a specific timetable for ending the ban, but its authors at one point suggested in an interview that full repeal could take years.

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday however, Obama said he expects to end the policy sooner rather than later. "Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love," he said.

The next day, Gates said in an interview: "We will move as fast as we responsibly can."

But he has warned troops that enforcement of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy remains in effect until official certification is approved. Stanley would not directly say Friday whether the military is currently considering the removal of troops in violation of the policy and added that he would consider removing someone, "if the case merits."

"We are obligated to follow that law, and to say anything other than that at this time would be inappropriate," Stanley said.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 28, 2011; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Military  
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Comments

"...Elaine Donnelly, founder of the Center for Military Readiness and a vocal opponent of changing the policy, said "scores of complicated issues and problems involving human sexuality" remain unresolved..."

With respect, could she be a bit more specific?

After all, there aren't "scores of complicated issues" currently dealing with gay service members, and there really and truly ARE gay service members serving.

I've been saying for months (maybe years), and the Military is basically confirming, today, what I've been claiming--that repeal of DADT will require next to NO changes in anything.

It simply means that gay service members won't face discharge just for being gay.

Period. Not really complicated, Ms. Donnelly.

Human beings are certainly complicated. Letting people serve and do their jobs? Doesn't really get more "complicated" if some of those people are gay.

Posted by: ricklinguist | January 28, 2011 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Obama, Gates and Mullen have conspired to ruin our great military.

There is a price to pay anytime a country has been betrayed. I pray that these men are held personally responsible for this terrible act.

Posted by: numbersch13 | January 28, 2011 8:33 PM | Report abuse

People like numbersch13 hate this country, because they hate the tenets of liberty and equality that are part of the foundation of this country. Gay Americans are already serving in the armed forces. Gay Americans are already fighting to defend and protect their country. Gay Americans have died for the sake of their country and its citizens, including ungrateful, Un-American shills like numbersch13.

No special treatment for gay soldiers, no harassment of other troops allowed, same consequences for all soldiers gay or straight. A gay soldier can have a photo of their partner on their desk just as a straight soldier can have a photo of their partner on there desk. A gay soldier cannot harass another gay soldiers or another straight soldier, and a straight soldier cannot harass another straight soldier or gay soldier. A soldier cannot harass another soldier, period. EQUAL treatment, not special treatment.

People like numbersch13 want to destroy this country and remake it into one where liberty and equality only apply to an elite few, while people they deem to be less than them, such as Gay Americans, get crushed under the boot of a tyrannical socially conservative government. Thankfully, the American people will never let this happen. Our soldiers are sacred, gay or straight.

Posted by: paulflorez | January 28, 2011 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Just what we need to fight the next war, a kinder, gentler, more sensitive military. The soldiers and Marines are already handicapped with the so called rules of engagement that leave them subjected to criminal prosecution if they make the wrong split second decision in the heat of battle.

I will not allow my young son to be subjected to this mockery of military service. I will do everything in my power to discourage him from doing what I, his grandfather, two of his great grandfathers, and at least one other generation of our family members have done, which is to answer the call to serve in the military of this once great nation.

Posted by: denmaur | January 28, 2011 9:39 PM | Report abuse

People like paulflorez are enablers of this sick and sinful lifestyle. Too be sure, you and your ilk will pay the price, also.
What a fool you are and you think it is bliss.

Posted by: numbersch13 | January 28, 2011 9:47 PM | Report abuse

People like numbersch13 let their own beliefs poison their lives. They take judgment from the hands of the higher power and wield it themselves to cause harm to others. Unlike numbersch13 who cheers that those he judges "pay the price," I pray that God will spare such confused, hateful people like numbersch13 from the fiery pits of Hell. I know numbersch13's hatred and judgment are for his own foolish comfort and satisfaction in how he understands this world, but I pray that God forgives him and that he does not pay the price. I forgive numbersch13.

Posted by: paulflorez | January 28, 2011 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Why the 60 day "waiting period" after Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs are satisfied? He and President Obama sign a certification. It's done.

Back in 1993 a Presidential directive was issued and in less than 2 months DADT was in place. No training, no consideration of military effectiveness. No one signed off on whether that policy was working out.

Repeal of DADT was signed 12-22-10. They need months (?) to tell troops now what has been the actual, informal, policy for the last 18 years?! - Don't Ask - Everybody Knows. Homophobic troops need time to adjust?!

The Bowers decision took 17 years before "repeal" in the Lawrence court decision. At least the Supreme Court had the guts to apologize: "Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today." There wasn't a 60 day "waiting period."

DOMA has been in place for 15 years. Do we have to go by the 17 year waiting period for that, then another "60 day waiting period" when that discriminatory law is repealed?

American treatment of homosexuals is pathetic, paranoid, childish, something from the dark ages.

Posted by: ldfrmc | January 28, 2011 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Why is Elaine Donnelly quoted?

Does some misguided notion of "balance" require you to solicit the opinion of an anti-gay nutbar on any story dealing with gay issues? The woman has never served in the military, has zero expertise in military matters, and no academic credentials of any kind relevant to the matter at hand. She is a loon with a fax machine and the lavish monetary support of the christian anti-gay hate machine.

What justification is there for interviewing her? It is simply not credible journalism to add her opinion to the story as if she has qualifications. She is the equivalent of a random blog commenter and nothing more.

Posted by: SportinLife | January 28, 2011 11:14 PM | Report abuse

Recall that Gen Amos of the US Marines stated that if the law was repealed, the Marine Corps would step out smartly. Watch his video message to his Marines here: http://www.marines.mil/news/pages/marinestv.aspx?pid=d9p4g5vJWiQll4bLGacNt1d1BTDx1vus

Posted by: williambarnacle | January 29, 2011 1:23 AM | Report abuse

From the article:
"The changes outlined Friday are in line with the recommendations of a Pentagon report issued in November that said the repeal would present only a low risk to the armed forces' ability to carry out their missions.
The study group did not suggest a specific timetable for ending the ban, but its authors at one point suggested in an interview that full repeal could take years."
==
Full repeal would only present a "low risk" to the military's missions, but "full repeal could take years."
WHAT?
That's ridiculous.
The witch hunt has been halted; now it needs to be scrapped.
People do not need to be identified by their sexual orientation.
Command must make it clear that no hazing or other abuse will be tolerated and any transgressions will be dealt with severely.
Likewise, acting out, flaunting orientation of any type will not be tolerated and such behavior will also be dealt with severely, as against military order.
That's all it's going to take.
Once everyone knows the rules of the road, it will be up to command to keep their troops busy with the work to be done and there will be a few scattered instances of trouble, but if dealt with swiftly and firmly, that will be the end of it.
I'm the wife of a military retiree of 33-plus years of service and we welcome this change in service operation.
DADT was the shame of our military services for 17 years.
God bless you, paulflorez.

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | January 29, 2011 1:23 AM | Report abuse

I would ask that the other representatives from the pro-repeal groups referenced above be more complete in their assertions of no problems with implementation. Asserting that NO changes will be needed in running and ordering our military is either motivated by a desire to advance an agenda or born out of ignorance.

The incomplete study prior to repeal failed to address the concerns of front line troops whose living circumstances are much more intimate and whose interdependence is much more critical than that of a supply clerk snapping bubble gum and listening to Lady Gaga behind some desk. The question not asked of the troops is whether DADT should be repealed.

Same sex or otherwise, sexual attraction is just as disruptive, particularly in a combat situation. Shared living quarters either with those with a same sex or opposite sex attraction are equally bad ideas. Yes, homosexual troops have undoubtedly served throughout the history of the military. Never has the issue of acceptance of the ‘morality’ of the homosexual act been ordered by the federal government. I hope whatever training is implemented relies on tolerance and not advocacy or worse, punitive measures for holding a contrary viewpoint. We will see how diverse is government ‘diversity’.

With two actively ‘hot’ wars and the Middle East seemingly in the throes of revolution we now begin to dedicate resources and time to a PC agenda. With fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law I am sure the military will attempt to conform to this new demand. That does not excuse the reality that the repeal is ill advised and compromises our military’s cohesion and readiness.

Posted by: RHLee | January 31, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

For the past 17 years, the military has had the LEGAL right to disciminate against a portion of the American population, i.e., gay and lesbian soldiers, yet it expects those soldiers to go into foreign lands to fight and die on behalf of people that suffer repression and discrimination of their own. How does that make sense? It's about time our country practices what it preaches - freedom from repression and freedom from discrimination for all - including those who are fighting to protect those freedoms for the rest of us.

Here is a little known fact... for gay officers who retire from the military with a pension, for 10 years after they retire, they fall into a category called Individual Ready Reserve. During that time, it is possible the military could recall them. What that also means is the rules and regulations of the military apply during those 10 years - including DADT. After serving for 20 or more years, and hiding who they are from their co-workers and sometimes from friends and family, they must continue to live under the veil of repressive regulations or risk losing their pensions, for an additional 10 years after they retire. They are not free to come out... they are not free to marry. Retired gay/lesbian officers suffer long after they leave the military... as do their partners.

Posted by: ladybard | February 1, 2011 3:33 PM | Report abuse

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