First - The commandant of the Marine Corps -- just a week after urging Congress to maintain current policy -- is promising to personally oversee the integration transition now that Congress has acted:
“I, and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps [Carlton Kent], will personally lead this effort, thus ensuring the respect and dignity due all Marines,” Amos said. “On this matter, we look forward to further demonstrating to the American people the discipline and loyalty that have been the hallmark of the United States Marine Corps for over 235 years."
Amos’ statement sent to reporters came Sunday evening, one day after the Senate adopted the repeal, capping a stunning, climactic day on the chamber floor.
Marine Corps leaders have shown the most resistance to repealing the 17-year old law. Former commandant Gen. James Conway said the Corps’ “pretty macho” recruits set them apart from other services.
This statement speaks to Gen. James Amos' honor and integrity. He offered his very best advice to Congress, and when they ignored his counsel, he stood up and saluted. Pundits and private citizens can gripe and second guess, but military leaders must abide by their civilian leaders' decisions, no matter how controversial.
Second - The New York Times interviews a cross-section of Marines about Congress' recent vote, and the cultural sea change that has just become a reality. These young men do not sound like anti-gay bigots; they do seem accepting to a degree, but understandably concerned about the profound shift in group dynamics that may soon befall combat units. A sampling of their quotes:
...He thinks Congress did the right thing in repealing the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, a policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” But Private Carias, 18, has one major concern: gay men, he says, should not be allowed to serve in front-line combat units.
“They won’t hold up well in combat,” he said. That view, or variations on it, was expressed repeatedly in interviews with Marines around this town.---
“Coming from a combat unit, I know that in Afghanistan we’re packed in a sardine can,” said Cpl. Trevor Colbath, 22, a Pendleton-based Marine who returned from Afghanistan in August. “There’s no doubt in my mind that openly gay Marines can serve, it’s just different in a combat unit. Maybe they should just take the same route they take with females and stick them to noncombat units.”
Pfc. Alex Tuck, a 19-year-old from Birmingham, Ala., who is at Camp Geiger, said he had no doubt that gay Marines would not only perform well in combat but would also be accepted by a vast majority of Marines.
“Showers will be awkward,” Private Tuck said outside a shopping mall here, expressing a worry mentioned by just about every Marine interviewed. “But as long as a guy can hold his own and protect my back, it won’t matter if he is gay.”
A third officer just back from Afghanistan said he would not be surprised if some combat soldiers in small outposts wanted to sleep separately from openly gay troops. But this officer emphasized that what would truly earn acceptance for gay troops would be fighting well.
“Honestly, what I care about is how good a gunner they are,” he said. “If an individual is performing well on the battlefield, people won’t care.”
These concerns, some of which were raised in Katie's post yesterday, should be examined very carefully by military brass as they contemplate implementation of the new policy. An efficient, effective, cohesive, and deadly fighting force is of paramount importance for the United States military. All other considerations must be secondary.