I was please to see movement in the fight to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this week, the ridiculous military policy that flies in the face of the code of honor all those serving in our forces hold dear. We teach our troops to live honorably, knowing that our leaders must be people of character to deserve the respect of those who follow. The Cadet Honor Code states: "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do." How we can ask someone to live a lie while putting their very lives on the line for our country is beyond me. So I was pleased to hear this archaic policy is on its way out, and pleased that our President had told the powers that be to find out what will need to be done to make it happen. Not look at how plausible it is, mind you, but to make it happen.
John McCain says that DADT "is working." This despite the fact that 800 people per year are discharged from the jobs they love and do well, with great unit cohesion, because of the simple fact that they are gay or lesbian. Let's put morality aside and look at the issue strictly from a dollars and cents approach. This policy constitutes a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars per discharged soldier of training and specialized skill training each year, multiplied by around eight hundred personnel per year. According to WikiAnswers:
Basic US military training is anywhere from 3-6 months, which translates to $4,000 minimum just to pay a single trainee. Add in food, lodging, and equipment at government-contracted rates and that cost easily doubles. That doesn't include any of the support staff necessary to train, equip, or manage the logistics of a group of recruits. No good source for it, but its generally said that each front-line soldier requires eight additional folks to support them... not quite applicable to basic training so call it a really conservative 2:1 ratio of trainee to support staff, tack on the fact that support staff is probably averages at least four years of service, and three months of training a single soldier jumps easily jumps to $10,000. Once a soldier completes minimum training they're good for... pretty much nothing except wearing the uniform and being able to complete further training.So, if we estimate around $400,000 per soldier x 800 DADT discharges per year, and you get $320,000,000 in losses per year. This $320M a year is a conservative estimate, at best, when you consider that many of those who are "militarily 'outed'," if you will, have already served multiple years of their enlistment, and a good percentage of those discharged have served several reenlistments. Now add in the specialized language training of servicemen and women, the officer corps training, the cost of wartime deployments and the equipment and transportation costs theirein, and we're talking a pretty penny. A high price to pay to oust people for honorably serving their country.
Okay, so expand the training scenario a level and say that training a basic infantry soldier takes only a year (don't laugh too hard, its a simple analysis), that's a minimum of $40,000. Say that soldier gets shipped over to a combat region, now earns combat pay, serves only one year, comes back to the US and gets out (which is unlikely, as the minimum service commitments are a bit higher then that). That tacks $225/month on to their pay, ramp up all eight of the previously mentioned support staffers, and training, equipping, and fielding 1 each, US-issue Army grunt is going to run you over $250k. Add in healthcare benefits, tax breaks, life-insurance and disability insurance, wear-and-tear of equipment, ammunition, moral and transportation costs and a single soldier training and serving in the most basic capacity costs $400,000+.
Financially, it's a train wreck. And the most abhorrent part of the life-destroying, 800-per-year statistic is that these are folks who are "following the rules": they are living in secrecy, keeping their private lives to themselves, as per the military mandate; but it's the military that is doing the "asking" by snooping around in personal email accounts and by other invasive means...What part of "Don't Ask" doesn't the military understand???
Major Michael Almy wants to serve his country at a time when military recruiting has reached an all-time low, so low that the armed forces has lowered its minimum standards for recruitment. He is a successful career officer, and the Air Force elected to search through his private email to uncover his sexual orientation and kick him out of a career of service to which he has devoted his life. What kind of honor is our military showing here? Does that seem like the moral, ethical, honorable thing for our armed services to do to one of its own? It's reprehensible.
Major Almy story is heartbreaking, but not atypical. Simply, he wants to serve his country and is damn good at his job and well respected by his comrades in arms. And while we're on the subject of moral bankruptcy, let's go back to the military code of honor one more time. How moral is it to ask a member of the military to act honorably, yet lie about who they are? And what about their partners, who have no legal rights to their military benefits, to their pensions upon their death, or to any of the benefits other spouses are entitled when at home or deployed? Even our diplomatic corps allows those basic rights to the partners of their members. Does it make sense, and is it even legal, for one arm of the federal government to recognize the rights of these same-sex partners while another branch denies it entirely?
Yeah, "it's working," all right, Senator McCain: the entire policy is working, all right, against our national security. We are losing folks like Lieutenant Dan Choi, whose language skills are crucial in the Middle East (recently asked to resume drills with his unit). And honorable men like Lieutenant Colonel Fehrenbach, whose combat flying skills and leadership are desperately needed in this time of war. I know how my dad would stand on this issue. He'd be, without a doubt, in the
"kick-em-out" camp, simply because of his comfort level, or lack thereof. Even though I had lots of gay friends who all hung out at our house when I was a teen, even though he has seen us all grow up, still friends, both straight and gay, and become productive citizens and what I think he would consider "good people," he would not be comfortable in a Navy that would allow gay and lesbian sailors. Perhaps it is, for the most part, the thinking of the old guard, a generational divide in the military.
John McCain once claimed he relied on Colin Powell's judgment regarding the DADT policy, and that if Powell changed his mind, he'd reconsider, too. Now that Powell has changed his position, McCain is left facing his own words, and not wanting to reconsider. It's a sad battle for a strange little man who is searching for a nail on which to hang his hat. Desperation abounds:
Dead officers? Forged signatures? If this is the best logic that the senator can find to support his argument, then we are well overdue to eliminate this policy. The President's Chiefs of Staff all support putting this outdated policy to rest. What possible rationale is there for DADT to remain?
I was talking with my kids about the subject of my post today, and they just don't get what the fuss is all about. Little Man simply can't understand why people like his "uncles" and "aunts" who are gay or lesbian can't serve, saying, "After all, it doesn't matter who they are if they are willing to protect the country." Tweenie sees it as bigoted, and ridiculous: "Why shouldn't they???" she asks. Kids see the world clearly, without the biases and fears that come with age. Maybe it's about time we follow our kids' lead and allow those who are brave and willing to serve to live an honorable, truthful life. To be true to themselves, like the rest of us are allowed to be. The Hubby, Tweenie, Little Man and I are thankful for the bravery of all who serve, no matter their orientation, and I know we're not alone in our gratitude. It's time for the changing of the guard.
Weigh in, my fellow Politicos! Where do you stand on DADT? Is McCain desperate, or just pandering to the base? He is up for reelection...Let me know what you think and share your comments below!