Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Repealing DADT is not practical for the Marine Corps

While repealing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy may be feasible for the Army, Air Force, and Navy, homosexuality is not compatible with the Marine Corps. Marine’s are not only expected to uphold specific standards, but are required to live by certain “Marine Corps Core Values”. Honor, Courage and Commitment become a way of life for Marine’s, but where does homosexuality come into play with values? When defining “Honor” The Marine Corps states “Marines must possess the highest sense of gallantry in serving the United States of America and embody responsibility to duty above self, including, but not limited to: Integrity, Responsibility, and Tradition” (Marine Corps Values) “Demonstrating respect for the customs, courtesies, and traditions developed over many years for good reason, which produce a common Marine Corps history and identity. Respect for the heritage and traditions of others, especially those we encounter in duty around the world.” (Marine Corps Values). Those traditions that do not revolve around conforming to a homosexual life style are the staples to the very Marine Corps ethos.

Those proud traditions that were instilled upon those joining the Marine Corps, are the same traditions that will prevent current service members from being about to fully conform to a repeal of the current policy. “The potential exists for disruption of the successful execution of our current combat mission should repeal be implemented at this time, in addition to compromising combat effectiveness, repealing DADT would also threaten unit cohesion and combat readiness, if the law is changed, successfully implementing repeal and assimilating openly homosexual Marines into the tightly woven fabric of our combat units has strong potential for disruption at the small unit level, it will no doubt divert leadership attention away from an almost singular focus of preparing units for combat” (Gen. James Amos, the Marine Corps commandant) “Marines bring with them when they enter the Corps their own set of Core Values. Personal Core Values are instilled in Marines by their parents, families, religious beliefs, schools, peers, and other influences upon their lives. These individual sets of values may be strong or they may be weak. Regardless of background, every Marine should understand that being a Marine entails embracing and adhering to Marine Corps Core Values.” (Marine Corps Values) Being a Marine requires sacrifice across the board. It is not the Marine Corps’ job to conform to society, but rather those few brave men and women who choose to join the “few and the proud” to conform to the Marine Corps.

The Pentagon recently completed a year-long study of the affects of a potential repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Of the 115,052 military personnel surveyed, 70 percent stated that they believed a repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy would not have a negative impact on military morale. However, the results are not the same across the board. Not all military personnel are in favor of repealing the ban, most notably the Marine Corps and those engaged in combat. In fact, only approximately 44% of all Service members said that their unit’s effectiveness “in a field environment or out at sea” would be negatively impacted by repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Nearly 60% of respondents in the Marine Corps said they believed there would be a negative impact on their unit’s effectiveness in this context; among Marine combat arms the number was 67%. Likewise, when asked how repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would impact the readiness of their immediate unit, 21% of Service members overall said that it would have a negative impact. Among Marine Corps respondents this number was 32% and among Marine combat arms 43%. Service members questioned about the impact of repeal on their unit’s ability to “work together” in reference to  task cohesion, slightly under 30% of Service members as a whole predicted repeal would have a negative impact, but that number was 43% among the Marine Corps and 58% among Marine combat arms. Similarly, another question asked Service members about the impact of repeal on the trust between unit members. Overall, 33% of Service members predicted a negative impact on trust between unit members; this number was 47% for the Marine Corps and 60% for Marine combat arms. (Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”)

Allowing gays to serve openly in the Army, Air Force, or Navy might be realistic because of their already integrated training, however, “current Marine Corps policy regarding gender segregated recruit training is sound and is supported by the Kassenbaum Baker Congressional Committee chartered to evaluate this policy across the Services… Gender segregated training provides an environment free from latent or overt sexual pressures, thereby enabling recruits the opportunity to focus on, and absorb, Marine standards of behavior.” (Marine Corps Values) If women and men are segregated for training purposes to remove “sexual pressures” and distractions, it could be assumed that homosexuals would need to be removed for the same reasons. Training a homosexual female with strait females could pose too much of a “distraction” for the homosexual female. Furthmore, training two homosexual males may pose too much of a “distraction” to allow them to “absorb [the] Marine standards of behavior”.

Retired gunnery sergeant, Actor and Marine Corps icon R. Lee Ermey brought up a good point in a March 2010 Military Times interview: "Where are they [gay service members] going to live and take showers, and which bathrooms are they going to use? I liken it to putting me in the woman Marine barracks. I would have a great time, but I don’t think they would like it very much." (Ermey) This topic has been a big point, and one of the most significant factors in integrating homosexual service members into general training, about one third of service members questioned in the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy survey stated that they would “Take no action” when it came to sharing an open bay shower, or living quarters with a gay or lesbian service member (pg67) Current “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” Policy repeal training is instructing Marine’s to “grin and bear it”.

In comparison to the segregated training and housing, female service members are banned from joining combat units. While women are allowed to fill billets in the command element of any Marine ground task force, division, aircraft wing or logistics group, they are expressly banned from joining any MOS that would allow them to fill billets within ground combat units below the division level. The Marine Corps logic is similar to that of the segregated training. While there are physical differences and limitations that come into play that may make a female Marine a liability in combat, the same basic reasoning of removing “distractions” and “sexual pressures” comes into play. There has been no word if the Marine Corps plans on limiting MOS’s that homosexual service members may fill. One circumstance to take into consideration might be the issues that have arisen with FET Marine’s  in recent years. “Female Engagement Teams” go on all-male foot patrols with Marine infantry units on the front lines in Afghanistan to work as liaisons between the Grunts and Afghan women. Issued arised when women were brought into a unit full of men who hadn’t seen/been exposed to females in months. Sexual tension would undoubtedly pose a concern, especially when figuring out something as basic as a shower or sleeping schedule. Commanders found it such a concern in Afghanistan, that they put in place a requirement that FET Marines could not stay at one outpost for longer than 30 days.

Those who analyze the repeal logically will see there are too many issues that need to be worked out before abolishing the policy across the board. For Marines living in barracks, current policy states that the door must be open if a man and woman are in the room together. But what if two gay men are in a room? There is no official policy. There are inconsistencies in the planning, or lack thereof. While the Marine Corps, and Department of Defense in general, must follow the federal law that only recognizes marriage between a man and woman,(defense of Marriage Act) meaning same-sex spouses would be disqualified from benefits, such as housing allowances, healthcare, PX shopping privileges and other benefits specific to married couples. But a potential dilemma arises is a same sex couple happened to have a child together. Under current policy, they could be allowed to live in base housing because of the child/children and if the partner was a custodial parent, and if the service member deploys, the same-sex partner could receive PX privileges if they were allegedly shopping for their children.

The Marine Corps is steeped in customs tradition that set the branch apart from the Army, Air Force and Navy. Those traditions are immensely respected and honored by successive generations of Marines. "What you have chosen to do for your country by devoting your life to the service of your country is the greatest contribution that any man could make." (John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States) This quote is indicative of the esteem which many civilians hold for members of the military. However, with that esteem come certain expectations. Because of the type of work and its responsibilities, there is a great need for high standards of conduct among the members of the Marine Corps. A Marine just as other members of the Armed Services must follow a unique value system which sets him or her apart from the rest of society. This value system is based upon obedience, courage, discipline, selflessness, and honor; the principle ingredients of the military ethic. Being a Marine requires sacrifice across the board. It is not the Marine Corps’ job to conform to society, but rather those few brave men and women who choose to join the “few and the proud” to conform to the Marine Corps.

 “Not just what we do, our ethos is who we are and what we believe. Today, as in the past, the spirit of this ethos is born in the hearts of men and women drawn to the Corps by a common calling...  It grows as they are transformed--from citizen-patriots, into Marine--mind, body, and soul. Like knights of legend, Marines are not made, they are transformed. They are forged in the furnace of hardship, tempered by the bonds of shared hazard, sharpened by the whet-stones of training and education, and honed to a fine edge by innovation and ingenuity. Marines, once transformed, are forever changed--instilled with beliefs, ideals and virtues that have meaning deeper than words.” (Marine Corps Values)

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