Sunday, November 28, 2010

DADT A Military Decision

by Ronnie Spangler

With everything facing our country today you would think the old warning from our grandparents would have more meaning. "If its not broke don't fix it" seems to make a lot of sense to most Americans. Unfortunately our government is not known for making sense.

Our founding fathers thought long and hard about supporting a full time standing army and for good reasons decided if we did then the military should always remain under civilian control. Now Congress led by the President and the Progressive Democrats are talking about repealing the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy (DADT). Most Americans have other things like the economy, jobs, health care and their kids education on their minds. They are not too concerned with military life since what happens inside the military will have no direct effect on them. The only time a large segment of civilians really become concerned about our military is if they have a family member serving in the military. Most of the voices screaming the loudest for repeal of DADT are people that have never served in the military or for some reason did serve and decided not to make it a career.

People in support of repeal are quick to reference leaks from the DOD survey that is due out Nov 30, 2010. What they don't say is how the survey was conducted and who answered the questions in the survey. Since the repeal of DADT will directly effect such a small portion of American society and could have a direct impact on military discipline, morale and readiness it is my firm belief we should leave this question up to the military members directly effected. Proponents of the repeal like to say the decision is more about leadership than anything else. They believe it is the duty of the leaders and not the followers to decide how military members will interact with one other while serving in the military. I have news for people who believe they can dictate personal interaction of individuals with one another, it can't be done.

We teach our military to act as a team. To be willing to risk everything including their lives for their bothers and sisters that wear the uniform. With an all volunteer military this has worked well. Our enlisted members believe they are part of a team that is listened to and they can trust their brothers and sisters when times are hard. If the military and civilian leadership loses this trust our military readiness will suffer. In the world we are living in we cannot allow this to happen. We are still fighting two wars and with North Korea flexing their muscle another battlefront could open up any day.

In America you can only lead those that are willing to be led. If the enlisted serving in the military believe in their leaders and in the mission, they will follow them through the gates of hell and return to fight again. If they do not believe in their leaders or the mission they could lose the will to follow. American leaders do not lead by force. They understand they cannot force their personal beliefs, religion, or sense of morality upon those that follow. Trying to force an individual to serve in a military that is openly gay could have the unintended consequence of forcing them out of the military. Proponents say we are denying some of our bravest and brightest from serving but I believe we already have some of our bravest and brightest currently fighting to keep us free. Most of them are battle tested and these are the ones that should be listened to when deciding the fate of DADT.

It is common knowledge that generals, admirals and civilians do not win wars. It is the fighting enlisted men and women that are given the mission and find some way of carrying it out. The generals and admirals draw up the battle plan but its up to the enlisted to follow the plan. Within the enlisted ranks are the NCOs. They are charged with following the battle plan and sometimes in the heat of battle they are the ones that may decide to deviate from the plan in order to achieve victory. The leaders sitting safely in headquarters can pat each other on the back and award each other medals but it is the backbone of the military, the NCO, that will decide if the plan is victorious or not.

It has been many years since I served in the military so I cannot say how the younger generation would respond to an openly gay military. I can relay what I am hearing from service members that have offered their opinion on the subject and it has not been positive. It seems there are a lot more questions than answers to the subject. Most members I talk to say they cannot honestly say how they would react to seeing men walking around openly and freely admitting they are gay. Some have wondered how quickly one member would respond if another member of his team that was openly gay needed help during the heat of battle. Would he let his personal feelings interfere with his commitment to risk his own life for his fellow member? Could he put his personal convictions aside and treat an openly gay individual the same as his buddies that he considers to be brothers and sisters? And the biggest unanswered question facing some of our bravest and brightest serving today, will they remain in a military that is openly gay?

These are unanswered questions facing the enlisted men and women serving in our military. For these reasons we should leave the question of repeal or don't repeal up to the men and women serving today. Civilian leaders, generals, or admirals will never know for certain what is in the heart of the enlisted. Surveys like statistics are a matter for interpretation. Too many human variables goes into surveys for them to be a reliable source for making an informed decision. When it comes to our military the best advise is still, "If its not broke don't fix it." Today we have the best and most feared military in the world, we need to keep it that way.

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