Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Between Gay Pride Day & The 4th of July

It is no secret that military recruitment has recently had its share of difficulties. Even to the point where gang members and neo-Nazis are able to enlist in our Armed Forces.

Yet, here we are right now, between Gay Pride Day and Independence Day where as of this writing 13,000 US military personnel have been kicked out of the US Armed Forces for being gay and somehow violating the Pentagon's Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell policy. By the way, only one of the more lazy eras of American history could produce official policy with so many contractions. Still, the question comes to mind if as many Armed Forces personnel are drummed out of service for the "Don't Ask" policy as for the "Don't Tell" part.

As Matt Kennard recently reported for, a neo-Nazi skinhead explained the enlistment screening process he had gone through, including questions about his body art. "They just told me to write an explanation of each tattoo, and I made up some stuff, and that was that." The recruit's girlfriend even tried to sabotage his enlistment by sharing photos of him at white supremacist rallies. "I just denied them and said my girlfriend was a spiteful bitch," he said. "They knew what I was about. But they let it go because I'm a great soldier."

Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach was born on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. As part of the 366th Operations Support Squadron he helped protect Washington, DC, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and was among the forces that took Baghdad Airport in 2003. Lt. Col. Fehrenbach has flown 400 combat hours and earned nine medals, including one for heroism. None of it matters now as he fights to keep his job because of his intimate relationships.

In 2001 the US Army had filled only half its authorized positions for Arabic translators, and continues to fall short of its goals today. By the end of 2002, the Army had dismissed six Arabic linguists under Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Ironically, perhaps, the military has a Don't Ask Don't Tell policy [links to pdf] regarding hate groups and street gangs, too. But Matt Kennard spoke to former military investigator Carter F. Smith who explained, "When you need more soldiers, you lower the standards, whether you say so or not. The increase in gangs and extremists is an indicator of this. But they have a war to fight, and they don't have incentive to slow down."

Lt. Dan Choi of the New York National Guard is fluent in Arabic and served in Iraq. Lt. Choi's case differs in that he openly challenges Don't Ask Don't Tell. Lt. Choi helped start the organization Knights Out for gay and lesbian West Point alumni, and declared who he was on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show.

Yesterday, the last day of June, the National Guard Federal Recognition Board heard from members of Lt. Choi's unit and his commanding officer defending his service. But ultimately the Board found none of it material to the case, and recommended that Lt. Choi be discharged from service.

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