CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Does a straight Marine have to live with a gay Marine? Can a Marine with a same-sex partner receive housing allowance? Will being openly gay affect recruitment, assignments or promotion?
Questions like these were answered here, April 28, as about 185 Marines with Landing Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, conducted Tier 3 training to learn how the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy will affect the Marine Corps.
The current policy prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the U.S. armed forces. On Dec. 22, President Barack Obama signed a law that set conditions for repeal of the 18-year-old law.
One of the requirements for repeal is the implementation of training consistent with readiness and unit cohesion, while stressing that all service members should continue to treat each other with dignity and respect.
“Marines are still going to be Marines, we’re still going to wear the same uniform, we’re still going to respect each other and we’re still going to have the same discipline,” said Cpl. Vanessa Huff, operations noncommissioned officer, Landing Support Company, CLR-17, 1st MLG. “However, it will be with DADT being repealed.”
Repeal implementation training was first given to individuals in the Tier 1 group, including unit chaplains, judge advocates, recruiters and family readiness officers. Tier 2 included commanders, senior enlisted advisors and civilian supervisors of Marines. Tier 3 training will be given to all other Marines, sailors and civilian supervisors. The majority of Marines are expected to complete the training by May 31.
The hourlong, one-time-only class was aimed to educate Marines on what policies would change after the repeal of DADT – allowing individuals to serve in the military regardless of sexual orientation. The class began with a brief introduction by the regimental commander, Col. Bruce Nickle, in which he said he expects a smooth transition after repeal.
“In my mind, this isn’t going to be much of a challenge,” said Nickle. “Why? We’re Marines, and what do Marines do? Follow orders. It’s not going to be any different. We’ll just continue to evolve and continue to be the professionals that we are.”
After the introduction, the instructor, Maj. Daryl DeSimone, answered several repeal-related questions from Marines, such as “Will I have to live with a gay Marine?” After repeal, billeting assignments will not be made with regard to sexual orientation.
“You can live with somebody in the barracks; you don’t have to be their friend,” said DeSimone, who added that commanders may elect to reassign roommates on a case-by-case basis if it poses “too much of a disruption for the unit.”
A Marine who marries a person of the same gender, however, will not receive extra benefits, such as Base Allowance for Housing “with dependent,” because a same-sex partner does not qualify under the Defense of Marriage Act, said DeSimone.
Another question raised was, “What if homosexuality goes against my religion?” Likewise, Marines retain the right to their religious beliefs, but their conduct must remain professional and they must treat fellow Marines with dignity and respect.
After repeal, sexual orientation will not bar an individual from joining the military or have any effect on assignments or promotion. What will not change after the repeal, DeSimone stressed, are the Marine Corps’ standards of personal and professional conduct. Also, evaluation will continue to be based on merit, fitness and capability.
“I just ask that you all remain professional, any time you’re faced with situations where sexual orientation comes into play, just like you remain professional when you’re faced with any other leadership challenges out there; as long as you do that, we shouldn’t have any problems with the Marines,” said DeSimone. “These are new challenges you will face, and we’re going to have to figure that out together to move forward.”
The DADT policy will remain in effect until 60 days after the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs all certify that the requirements for repeal have been met.
The training, Huff said, gave her and fellow leaders the knowledge necessary to ensure a smooth transition.
“As long as our leadership is involved, our junior troops will have what they need in order for this to be a smooth transition,” said Huff. “When I’m out in combat, what’s going to matter is that the Marine to my left and my right will save my life, and I will save theirs.”