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Thursday, November 13, 2008

First of Three Navy/Submarine Posts

I have not yet had a chance to write a Veterans' Day post, so I thought I would start there. I happily served in the U.S. Navy for five years. I was a submarine officer and learned much about the technical workings of everything from sonar to reactors to periscopes. I've commented that between reactor chemistry, sound velocity profiles, and trimming the ship while submerged the amount of information that has passed through my heard regarding water is breathtaking.

I also learned about leadership and observed the personal interactions while in the peculiar environment of 150+ men, all between 18 & 40, confined to a structure that measures about 300 feet long. Which brings me to what I really want to write about: Openly gay people should be allowed to serve in the military.

First, it is an honor and a privilege to do so. It has been a great advantage to me, not only on my resume but in giving me confidence in the face of unfamiliar challenges.

Second, while on Billfish, there were two men who the crew believed were gay. One of them was, and one of them may not have been gay, but in any case, everyone thought he was. It did not rip the crew apart. It did not prevent unit cohesion. Even in a place where your privacy was zero. (During my last month on board I went to use the shower just as another officer was coming out, and another was using the stall in the same small room. I commented, "Someday I will have no idea what my coworkers look like naked.")

So it is a great opportunity, it is wrong to deny it to people because of their sexual orientation, and it can be fixed without harming our military readiness. Here's what the out going Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Shalikashvili said two years ago:
I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces. Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.
Amen brother.

Full article here.

3 comments:

Matt Dick said...

If you get between my children and a bad guy, you're my hero.

James Parsons said...

Not directly related, but I heard an interesting panel conversation on the radio with some female veterans home from Iraq and a couple authors/intellectuals who were all discussing the experiences of women in the field in nominally "non-combat" duties, dealing with the military culture, comparing their experiences to those of men coming back from war, etc. Anyway, amongst the listener calls they took was an unreconstructed southerner, Vietnam era vet, who was pretty vehemently against women serving in any way shape or form. Wasn't that he was responding to the discussion that had been going on in any way, he was simply one of those people whose mind has been made up by blind, proud ignorance. Those individuals are never going to change, but they are always slowly replaced and the culture and the society inevitably seems to inch along. Might be 2 steps forward, 1 back, but liberalism and tolerance seem to be irrefutable in the long run.

JimII said...

I wonder how much observation bias plus personal experience plays into the character of people like that. The caller probably had a list of terrible things that happened because women were allowed in increasingly combat-esque roles.