On DADT repeal: ‘How the change affects the Marines is up to the leadership’

Tammy Schultz, who serves as the director of national security and joint warfare at the U.S. Marine Corps War College, is also openly gay. Today, she has an op-ed in the Washington Post on DADT and the Marines. It comes down to a question of leadership:

The values of honor, courage and commitment are inseparable from the Marines. By definition, gay and lesbian Marines break one or more of these core tenets every time they have to hide or lie about who they are. Eventually, gay Marines must out themselves by upholding Corps values, or continue compromising the very values that make them Marines.

Repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” would not mean that hundreds of gay and lesbian Marines would immediately come out of the closet. But it would mean that they could keep their personal and professional integrity. The examples from other countries where homosexuals are allowed to serve suggest that many will go about their lives as normal, but without the fear of being discharged if discovered.

The key to reconciling Marine culture with the open service of gay men and women will not be found among the rank and file or even among closeted service members; it must come from Corps leaders. Most research on how to integrate minority groups into the military has a common thread: the utmost importance of leadership to the process. The fact that the current and prior Marine commandants have expressed discomfort at the prospect of the demise of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is unfortunate because the generals risk creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, hurting the Corps they desire to protect.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” will be reversed in time. And as the military survey indicates, a majority of the Corps does not see a risk in the repeal. How the change affects the Marines is up to the leadership. A Marine officer once told me that, besides all Marines being riflemen and riflewomen, what sets them apart is discipline: “If the law changes,” he said, “we will comply with the law. You can take that to the bank.”

I believe he’s right. The United States Marine Corps is the most professional force in the world. There is no reason to think that it will be less adept at integrating gays than Britain, Canada or Australia (just three of the 26 countries that allow gays and lesbians to serve openly, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network).

The Service Chiefs, like General Amos from the Marines, have been outspoken in opposition to repealing DADT. Over the next couple weeks, they’ll work pubicly and behind the scenes with John McCain to torpedo repeal. That’s not leadership.

On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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