by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Once hailed as the face of opposition in the military to lifting the ban on Gays serving openly, Marine General James F. Amos has since changed his views. This week, Amos told the Associated Press that his concern over the repeal of DADT has proven unfounded, and that allowing Gays to serve openly has not had a negative impact on the war effort.
In fact, he said, Marines have embraced the effort and went so far as to say that the repeal of the discriminatory law was 'a non-event.'
Amos' new stance is in sharp contrast to his admonitory words to Congress in December 2010, shortly before President Barack Obama signed the repeal legislation. The ban was not officially lifted until September 20 of this year to allow the Pentagon to prepare for the change.
'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 as it will no doubt divert leadership attention away from an almost singular focus on preparing units for combat,' Amos testified.
Amos did say, however, that if the law were changed, Marines would faithfully follow it.
Now, nearly three months since the repeal, Amos says he now sees no sign of disruption in the ranks - including on the front lines.
'I'm very pleased with how it has gone,' Amos told the AP during a weeklong trip that included four days in Afghanistan, where he heard no opposition to Gays serving out in the open. Instead, during give-and-take sessions with Marines serving in Helmand province, he was asked about a range of issues, including the future of the Corps - but not once about Gays.
Amos told the AP about a female Marine who approached his wife, Bonnie, at the annual ball in Washington this month celebrating the birth of the Marine Corps. The Marine introduced herself and her Lesbian partner.
'Bonnie just looked at them and said, 'Happy birthday. & This is great. Nice to meet you,' Amos said. 'That is happening throughout the Marine Corps.'
Amos says that, looking back, he has no regrets about publicly opposing repeal during wartime. He told the AP he felt obliged, as commandant of the Corps, to set aside his personal opinions and represent the views of the 56% of combat Marines who told a Defense Department survey last year that repeal could make them less effective and cohesive in combat.
'I think I did exactly what I should have done,' Amos said. 'I've never looked back on it and said it was misplaced.'
Not only did Amos hear no talk about the repeal's impact during his visit to Afghanistan, the subject also did not arise when he fielded questions from Marines on board the USS Bataan warship in the Gulf of Aden on November 26.
In Bahrain on November 27, one Marine broached the topic. He asked Amos whether he planned to change the Marines' policy of leaving it to the discretion of local commanders to decide how to handle complaints about 'homosexual remarks or actions.' Amos said no.
He said he is aware of only one reported incident in Afghanistan thus far, and that turned out to be a false alarm. He said a blogger had written of a Gay Marine being harassed by fellow Marines for his sexual orientation. In an ensuing investigation, the Gay Marine denied he had been harassed.
'We attribute this success to our comprehensive pre-repeal training program, combined with the continued close monitoring and enforcement of standards by our military leaders at all levels,' a Defense Department spokeswoman, Cynthia O. Smith, said of the implementation of the repeal and how it is proceeding smoothly across the military.
In the months leading up to DADT repeal, there were indications that the change might not be embraced so voluntarily.
During a visit to a Marine combat outpost in southern Afghanistan in June, an enlisted Marine who openly objected to the repeal confronted then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates. He told Gates that the Marine Corps had 'a set of standards and values that is better than that of the civilian sector,' and that repeal of the Gay ban had 'changed those values.'
The Marine asked Gates whether Marines who object to serving with Gays would be allowed to opt out of their enlistment. Gates said no and predicted that if pre-repeal training was done right, 'nothing will change' with regard to rules of behavior and discipline.
That Marine was not alone in making known his qualms about allowing Gays to serve overtly in uniform. In a survey of military members last year, 45% of Marines viewed repeal disapprovingly in terms of how it could affect combat readiness, effectiveness, and cohesion. Among those Marines who serve in combat roles, 56% expressed that view.
The issue divided the military. Gates and other senior military leaders supported lifting the restrictions, pointing to a Pentagon study showing that most people in uniform don't object to serving with Gays.
But Amos and his Army counterpart bucked their bosses to recommend against lifting the ban during wartime.
'I don't want to lose any Marines to the distraction,' Amos said then. He is now a changed man.
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