Defense Department Two Step

Bill Neinast

Two steps forward, one back.  Those are the current dance steps of the Department of Defense.

The first hesitant step into the 21st Century was eliminating the restrictions on gays serving openly in the military services.  Every suggestion to do this earlier was met with much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The same shibboleths of the destruction of morale and unit cohesion were raised this time, but not as vociferously as before.  If any of the predictions of  disastrous results from allowing military gays to come out of the closet occurred, they have not received wide publicity.

The opponents of this policy have their heads in the sand.  Unknown thousands of gays have served in the military with distinction, particularly during the many years of the draft.  One of those is Brigadier General Virgil A. Richard, U. S. Army (Retired) of Austin.  General Richard is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Army War College. 

He is a recipient of the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit with four Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster.  His service must not have been too disruptive of morale and discipline.

While stationed in Germany in 1970, I was the legal counsel for a major facing an administrative discharge without honor because of a lieutenant’s claim that he was the object of a homosexual advance by the major.  I saved the major’s career with evidence and argument on the homosexual or gay panic defense.

I did not keep track of the major afterward.  He had an outstanding record before this accusation, and I assume that he continued to serve with honor and effectiveness.

Those opposed to gays serving in the military might benefit from a bit of study of the use of gays in the Ancient Greek armies.  According to Plato and other philosophers of that age, many Greek military units were formed around homosexual unions.  They fought with vigor and passion.

The next step in the Pentagon waltz was integrating females into combat units. Here comes the gnashing of teeth again.  According to the old timers, women just cannot handle the rigors of combat.

Those making that argument should have a talk with Tammy Duckworth.  This lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard lost both of her legs while piloting a helicopter in combat in Iraq.  She now serves Illinois as one of its Representatives in the U.S. Congress.

Maybe they should discuss their views with the families of the 152 female service members who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan so far.  If that would be too difficult, maybe visits with Shoshana Johnson and Jessica Lynch, the two female soldiers captured by Iraqi Army units, would shed a little light on their views.

Females are already serving on the front lines of combat, because those front lines are every cross roads in the countries where we have troops.  The days of trench warfare and infantry division pitted against infantry division are long past and probably never will return.  So, any female who can shoulder the rigors of today’s combat paraphernalia should be given the chance to go for the Combat infantryman’s Badge and all the glory and promotions that come with it.

Now for the step back.  If the Senate confirms the nomination of Chuck Hegel to be Secretary of Defense, the nation’s defense posture will be slammed back to pre WWII days.  Only Congress will be able to avoid such a disaster.

Hegel’s performance before the Senate committee last week was so abysmal that either he or the President should withdraw his nomination.

The only person other than Obama and Hegel who may think this is the right man for the job is Robert McNamara.  The so called whiz kid of the Johnson administration is considered by many to be the worst Secretary of Defense ever.  Accordingly, McNamara must be rooting for Hegel to take his place so that he can move up a notch in the ratings.

Defense is facing substantial cuts in manpower and materiel.  Leon Panetta, who is leaving the defense post, says these cuts pose a serious threat to the country’s safety.  So this is not the time for a politician who does not even know his President’s position on Iran to take the defense reigns.

So here’s the perspective.

The military is finally catching up with reality in personnel matters.  What a shame that it may be pushed backward by an incompetent manager.

A lot more than fancy dance steps will be required to keep us out of this quick sand.      


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