Army, Marine officers at opposite ends of 'don't ask, don't tell' debate
CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, Marine Gen. James Amos’ first name was incorrect. Also in the story, while Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said he believes the opinion of Army recruits on the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy mirrors the American public, he did not specifically cite any opinion polls.WASHINGTON — A day after President Barack Obama’s selection for Marine Corps commandant argued against repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the Army officer in charge of training new soldiers said the process would not require significant changes if openly gay recruits were allowed to enlist.
Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, deputy commanding general of U.S. Training and Doctrine Command, insisted that, if the controversial law is abolished, the Army would simply enforce its values that soldiers show respect and loyalty to each other.
On Monday, Senate Republicans successfully filibustered a major defense bill that included repeal language and Marine Corps commandant nominee Gen. James Amos said in his Senate confirmation hearing that he opposed the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” during wartime.
“My primary concern with proposed repeal is the potential disruption to cohesion that may be caused by significant change during a period of extended combat operations,” Amos said in a written statement provided for his confirmation hearing.
Earlier this year, Gen. James Conway, the current commandant, said the Corps would have to build new barracks because he would not force straight Marines — who he said were “pretty macho” compared with the other services — to bunk with gay Marines.
Hertling said any upheaval in Army basic training would be minimal.
“From the standpoint of training and intricacies of what we might have to do, we will have to make some adjustments, but I don’t see it being all that significant,” Hertling said at a breakfast with defense writers, suggesting that Army attitudes likely fall in line with the general public.
Recent polls have indicated Americans largely support repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
“We are representative of American society, unlike maybe some of the other services who recruit specialized more," Hertling said. "I mean, the Army is America.”
A Pentagon survey of troop attitudes on repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” ended on Aug. 15 with 115,000 responses out of roughly 400,000 requests sent. Those results have not been released. On Tuesday, a Pentagon spokesman said its parallel survey of military spouses so far had returned 38,000 responses out of 150,000 sent. The deadline for spouses to submit their responses is Sept. 27.