Open Homosexuality in the Military: Some Observations

The Washington Times “National Security” newsletter for Wednesday, September 21, included the following four items:

Military warned not to harass openly homosexual troops
The nation’s highest military leaders warned troops Tuesday not to harass gays who emerge from the closet as the ban on coming out officially ended.

As ban ends, Navy officer, partner wed in Vt.
Just as the formal repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy took effect, Navy Lt. Gary Ross and his partner were married before a small group of family and friends.

Pentagon downplays ending of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’
The United States formally ends a decades-old ban on open gays in the ranks on Tuesday, a historic day that the military services hope will pass as routinely as roll calls, marching and lights-out.

Panetta says end of gay ban is historic for military
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta on Tuesday said that repealing the ban on openly gay service made this an historic day for the military and the nation.

That appears to cover most of the bases.

Three days earlier, an article that had appeared in the same paper was a bit less positive about gay and feminist political correctness in the armed forces, specifically the Navy:

Lehman rocks Navy with complaints about political correctness
Ex-secretary says aviation needs swagger
By Rowan Scarborough
The Washington Times
Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Navy’s former top civilian has rocked the service in a military journal article by accusing officials of sinking the storied naval air branch into a sea of political correctness.

Former Navy Secretary John Lehman, himself a former carrier-based aviator, wrote that the swagger and daring of yesterday’s culture has given way to a focus on integrating women and, this year, gays.

Pilots constantly worry about anonymous complaints about salty language, while squadron commanders are awash in bureaucratic requirements for reports and statistics, he added.

“Those attributes of naval aviators — willingness to take intelligent calculated risk, self-confidence, even a certain swagger — that are invaluable in wartime are the very ones that make them particularly vulnerable in today’s zero-tolerance Navy,” said Mr. Lehman, who led the Navy in the Reagan administration.

“The political correctness thought police, like Inspector Javert in ‘Les Miserables,’ are out to get them and are relentless.”

Navy pilots have complained privately for years that a post-Tailhook Convention push to clean up conduct by aviators went too far.

The 1991 Las Vegas convention has stood as a black mark for the Navy because some naval aviators engaged in lewd escapades and excessive drinking.

An ensuing Pentagon investigation ballooned into one of the government’s most extensive probes, as scores of officers were targeted and had their careers shortened. Feminists used the scandal to demand a change in Navy culture.

This barely begins to adequately describe the utter disregard for tradition and esprit de corps that the Navy’s PC Police exhibited during the Tailhook investigation. A more complete story of this self-inflicted wound by the Navy’s powers-that-were is in the October 1993 issue of David Horowitz’s Heterodoxy: “TAILHOOK WITCH-HUNT” (.pdf format)

But what has this got to do with “gays” in the military?

Well, I thought some observation of how women are faring on U.S. naval vessels might provide some clue as to how a major change of culture aboard a Man o’ War might affect combat readiness. We haven’t had many years of experience with an openly gay military culture; perhaps we can get some clues from how the ladies are doing at sea.

To do this, I’ve extracted some clips from the PBS documentary series “Carrier.” The first two are from the first episode which concentrates on the personalities, foibles and interaction of crew members of both sexes. Here’s your introduction to “Nimitz High”:

Must confess that the limitation to one stuffed animal seems a bit severe. Moving on, let’s see how one young, female culinary specialist is doing on the job:

There also seem to be some differences of opinion regarding why the USS Nimitz is headed for the Persian Gulf:

At least the lady pilot knows why she’s there. But then, not all pilots of the female persuasion are created equal:

Did you catch those male chauvinist cracks at the end? That’s the kind of thing Mr. Lehman was referring to when he  talked about, “The political correctness thought police, like Inspector Javert in ‘Les Miserables,’ (who) are out to get them and are relentless.” Ladies, if you can’t stand the heat in the ready room. . .

There is at least one officer and pilot who isn’t concerned about the consequences, whatever they may turn out to be, of an openly gay Navy. And that is Cdr. David Fravor, C.O. of the “Black Aces” squadron, who is retiring at the end of this deployment. He will soon experience his last “trap” and his last “cat shot”:

The Commander may have done himself a favor by retiring for he will never have to face a fate like that of Capt. Owen Honors who lost his command of the USS Enterprise primarily because of political correctness regarding gays in the military:

USS Enterprise Sailors Support Capt. Honors Over Videos
By Sara Sorcher
Tuesday, January 4, 2011 | 1:22 p.m.

Updated at 4:22 p.m. on January 4.

The public may be cringing at the videos created by the captain of the USS Enterprise containing gay-bashing and sexual jokes, but many crew members who served with him are rallying to his defense.

Capt. Owen Honors, who has been relieved of his command due to his role in making the videos, received glowing praise today from his sailors, who are joining Facebook groups, signing petitions, and creating bumper stickers to show support.

The Navy is investigating what it called “clearly inappropriate videos” that Honors filmed with government equipment during his time as executive officer—or “XO”—in 2006 and 2007. Honors had been weeks away from deploying with the carrier, but a senior military official told National Journal the Navy was conducting a probe that would likely end his military career. The Navy tends to quickly remove senior officers suspected of misconduct, a legacy of the black eye the service suffered following the 1991 Tailhook scandal.

Enterprise crew members have been told not to speak to the media while the investigation continues, according to multiple postings on a Facebook page in support of Honors.

Yet watching the videos in the news this week brought back fond memories of “XO movie night,” which would air on the carrier’s closed-circuit television every Saturday, according to Ryan Adams, 25, a petty officer second class who served on the Enterprise until 2009.

The controversial videos, which feature clips of men and women pretending to wash each other in shower stalls aboard the carrier, sailors simulating masturbation, eating what is meant to look like bodily waste from a toilet, and laden with slurs against homosexuals, were only meant to “lighten the mood,” Adams said. “They’d serve pizza on the mess decks and people would all crowd around the TV. There would not be an empty seat on the deck.”

In solidarity with Honors, Facebook groups with titles like “We Support Captain O.P. Honors!“ have garnered thousands of members. Nearly 1,000 have signed a petition to keep him as commander of the carrier, and many have swapped out their Facebook pictures for images of Honors in uniform.

Before Honors became XO of the Enterprise, the mood on board was “awful,” said Kimberly Wooster, 32, who served as an electronics technician from 2001 to 2005 and left because she was so unhappy.

“People were leaving because they couldn’t take it anymore. Even as a strong, grounded person it was just very, very hard. Everything seemed to be disintegrating so fast,” Wooster said in an interview, describing a particularly bad 18-month period where the carrier was not deployed, but crew members were working 16- to 18-hour days, seven days a week.

When asked if other XOs or commanders did anything to boost morale on the ship before Honors, Wooster responded, “Hell no.”

“We were not worth their concern or their time,” she said. “I don’t think we even registered on their radar.”

Like most everything else, women serving on combat ships is neither all bad nor all good. It depends on the woman, her physical capacities, attitude, and on her having a shell that can handle the large doses of harassment that military men, especially fighter pilots, hand out to each other all the time. It’s part of the culture, the “esprit de corps.”

But what happened to Captain Honors does not bode well for the introduction of open homosexuality in the military. Political correctness will probably continue as the order of the day. Discipline, training and spirit will take a back seat. Commanders will have one more thing on their plate that is not directly related to combat readiness and performance. That’s why I cannot refrain from suspecting that this whole business of gays in the armed forces has little to do with improving the military. In the armed services, social justice is necessarily pretty far down the priority list. Putting individual sexual preferences ahead of preparedness is definitely one very big cart in front of the horse.

Ending on a personal note, during my Air Force days I would on occasion hear a superior officer say, “Sounds like a personal problem to me.” Which is precisely the point.


P.S. As an addendum to this post, I would like to share with you a video clip of Brig. Gen. Steve Ritchie speaking about the rescue from within the depths of North Vietnam of one Roger Locher. Brigadier Ritchie was the only U.S. Air Force ace of the Vietnam war. He is an outstanding example of the caliber of officer our service academies can produce — without any help from political correctness.

Here’s the mission:

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