June 7, 2011 in Nation/World

Half of force trained on gay ban repeal

Pauline Jelinek Associated Press
Summer deadlines

The Navy expects to finish the bulk of its training by the end of June. The Army will largely finish its training of the active duty force by mid-July, and the reserves by August 15. The Marines and Air Force have the bulk of their troops trained.

WASHINGTON – More than a million U.S. troops – roughly half the armed forces – have been trained on the new law allowing gays to serve openly in the military, and so far there has been none of the turmoil or dire consequences predicted by opponents of what had been expected to be a wrenching change in military culture.

There’s been no widespread resistance, no mad rush for the door by enlisted members opposed to the policy and no drop in recruiting.

“So far this seems to be a non-event,” Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff for the Army, told reporters recently. But, he warned, “This is not going to happen without incident – I’d be crazy to say that. Somewhere along the line something is going to occur. But we’re doing everything we can to head that off in training.”

In the debate over the change, opponents predicted that repealing the 17-year-old ban on openly gay service members would roil the nation’s armed forces and undermine fighting ability. And, as the law passed Congress late last year and President Barack Obama signed it, Pentagon leaders said they would carefully assess the impact of the change on military readiness before they certified to the president that it could be implemented.

So far, military officials have told Pentagon leaders that they have seen no adverse impact on the force. And while there have been plenty of questions from the troops – including pointed queries to Defense Secretary Robert Gates – defense officials say they have seen nothing yet that would block the eventual implementation of the law.

“We have seen no insurmountable issues,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in an interview with the Associated Press. “Our training is going very well.”

To be sure, there are still plenty of troops who oppose the change, reject homosexuality and have peppered training sessions with tough questions.

On Sunday, a Marine in Afghanistan complained to Gates that troops haven’t been given a chance to decide whether to stay on under the new policy, and he asked if they could leave.

Gates’ answer: No.

Gates said that troops don’t always agree on politics, religion or other matters, but they still serve together.

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