By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, April 7, 2011 – As the services conduct training to pave the way for implementing repeal of the law that bans gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told soldiers here today that he expects service members will take the change in stride.
“My guess is you won’t see much change at all,” Gates said during a question-and-answer session with about 175 U.S. Division Center soldiers at
, “because the whole thrust of the training is you’re supposed to go on treating everybody like you’re supposed to be treating everybody now -– with dignity, respect and discipline.” Camp Liberty
Repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law will take effect 60 days after the president, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify in writing that the military is ready to implement it. A three-phase program toward that end is well under way, Gates told the soldiers.
The first phase, he said, was writing the changes to regulations and policies that need to be in place when the repeal takes effect. The next, he explained, was to prepare training materials, and the third phase was to conduct the training, which also has three phases.
Experts such as human resource specialists, counselors and chaplains were the first to receive training, Gates said, followed by commanders.
“Virtually everybody has completed the first two of these phases, so we are now in the process of beginning to train the force,” he added.
The secretary emphasized that repeal of the law will not create a “protected class” in the military.
“The same kind of military discipline and regulations that apply to heterosexual relationships will apply in terms of homosexual relationships,” he said. “Same thing in terms of uniforms and in terms of benefits –- there are no special benefits. … So the responsibility basically is going to be to treat each other the way you ought to be treating each other right now.”
Change is nothing new to the military, Gates said.
“We admitted women into the military a long time ago, and we still have a big problem in the military with sexual assault,” he told the soldiers. “So as I say, the same rules you’re supposed to be living by now will be the same rules you’ll be living by in the future. And that’s the way it ought to be.”