In an earlier thread, a reader brings up a legitimate beef regarding the treatment of gay and lesbian servicemembers in a post-DADT world. His concern stems from a situation that happened when he was on active duty in the Navy:
It’s been my experience observing Gay sailors when I was in the Navy, that they’re perfectly fine when they’re sober. When they get drunk, they let it all hang out.
One guy [presumably* one of these gay sailors] on our ship got wasted, and decided to suck off some guy who was sleeping in his bunk. Needless to say, when the guy woke up he was rather upset. Created a huge stir on our ship for weeks.
But because of PC attitudes, even way back in the early 1980s, the Gay guy only got a slap on the wrist.
Now, I can’t speak for the commentor’s leaders, but I will say that military commanders (especially aboard a ship) normally exercise a great deal of latitude in dealing with issues of conduct within their units. Sometimes, however, their hands are tied.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would certainly have tied the hands of this commander given this incident. Again, I can’t speak for the commander’s decision, or the whole scenario, but it’s altogether possible that something other than “PC attitudes” was behind his choice to only give “a slap on the wrist” to the offending sailor.
Military commanders can deal with discipline issues using a wide range of tools, from simple verbal admonishment through letters of counseling and reprimand or UCMJ non-judicial punishment all the way up to a court-martial. In a situation like the one the commentor describes, however, anything more ‘official’ than what he’d consider a “slap on the wrist” would have set off a cascade of events that would likely have led to the discharge of this sailor for violation of DADT. For example, even an Article 15 non-judicial punishment would require an investigation that would no doubt have outted the sailor and led to his discharge regardless of his drunken buffoonery.
If the sailor in question was otherwise a good troop (the commentor seems to suggest so) who didn’t necessarily deserve to be discharged for his shenanigans, his commander would be in a pickle: How do I discipline my troop proportionate to his offense? This doesn’t rise to the level of discharge, but anything beyond counseling and a threat of further action would inevitably result in that.
This leaves the commanding officer with no other choice but to issue a “slap on the wrist” punishment. Unfulfilling, I agree.
However, with DADT (soon to be) gone, the offending sailor’s actions could be separated from his (presumed) homosexuality, and he can be disciplined in a more commensurate way. The repeal of DADT will now give commanders better flexibility to address discipline issues among their gay troops. It’s the same flexibility they have had for heterosexual troops all along because they’re not faced with that Damoclean decision of, in essence, discharging a troop for an offense that doesn’t necessarily call for such a measure.
This can also help address the concerns many folks have had about “leering” in the shower and otherwise unwanted advances. During the DADT and pre-DADT days, commanders who officially disciplined troops for these offenses would have no choice but ultimately to discharge the accused troops if the requisite investigations had uncovered homosexuality (which they likely would have). Not anymore. And that new level of disciplinary authority commanders will now have is a good thing, I think. It allows commanders to do their jobs better.
*As an aside, it’s been my experience with sailors that such an incident as the commentor describes doesn’t necessarily indict him as a homosexual. Suffice to say, Navy men are a different breed altogether 😉
-Nick (ColoradoPatriot, from TML)