By Gary Sheftick, ARNEWSApril 12, 2011
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 11, 2011) -- Commands Army-wide are beginning to train Soldiers in preparation for repeal of the law commonly referred to as "Don't Ask Don't Tell."
"I can attest the process works," Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli told members of the House Armed Services Committee, April 7.
"The Army has begun the deliberate process of training and educating our force on exactly what the repeal means in terms of regulation and policy changes," he said at the hearing, also attended by the other service chiefs.
Chiarelli said it's too soon in the training process to downgrade the initial assessment by outgoing Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. that repeal of the law poses "moderate risk" to readiness, recruiting and retention.
"We cannot assume there will be no opposition in the days ahead," Chiarelli said. "In fact, we recognize there are some segments of the force -- primarily within the combat arms -- that have expressed concern regarding the appeal."
The vice chief told lawmakers the Army's chain-teaching program facilitates "thoughtful, constructive dialogue" on the subject between leaders and Soldiers.
"This dialogue is hugely important, especially at the lower levels where ownership and consensus are critical," Chiarelli said. He added that the training must continue until more of the force is trained before the Army can certify that it is ready to repeal the law and openly allow enlistment of gays and bisexuals.
"We recognize if we are to mitigate the risks to readiness, recruiting and retention, we must continue to do this deliberately," he said. "Training is just the start. The entire process, done properly, will take time."
Three weeks ago Casey visited Fort Riley, Kan., and met with Soldiers who had received the training related to repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law.
Casey told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee March 31, that he believes the training at Fort Riley was effective.
"The thing I took away: the training is simple, it's effective, and it's starting to break down misconceptions that (Soldiers) had in their mind," he said, adding those opinions were shared by leaders and Soldiers at every level he observed.
But Casey also told lawmakers that, until Soldiers and leaders were confronted with openly gay and lesbian Soldiers in the ranks, the issue is still "an intellectual discussion."
"What I took away is, this is the start of the process," he said. The general said the Army still does equal opportunity training, and training on race relations and gender bias. "We're going to be doing this for a while."
He also said concerns from Soldiers involve billeting -- if a Soldier will need to live with a gay or lesbian Soldier, for instance.
"I emphasized to commanders we are not going to have segregated billets -- but the commanders do have discretion to adjust the billets on a case-by-case basis, he said.
The general also said there is some concern among very religious members of the force who are wrestling with issues.
A spokesman for the Army Chaplain Corps said about three-fourths of all chaplains have taken Tier-1 training on the subject. Tier-1 training is for counselors and professionals such as personnel officers, recruiters, lawyers and chaplains.
Only one chaplain of the 2,900 in the Army asked to leave the service due to pending repeal of the law, said Lt. Col. Carleton Birch, strategic communications officer for the Army's Chief of Chaplain's Office. He said that chaplain left before the training began, and the remainder have benefited from an "open and honest discourse" that the training forum provides.
Chaplains will continue to have the right to teach in accordance to the dictates of their faith, Birch said, adding that they will also continue to counsel Soldiers of all beliefs, no matter their sexuality.
"Our chaplains are really firmly committed," Birch said. "It's a calling."
Chaplains have also been assisting with Tier-2 training, Birch said. That training is for commanders and senior leaders.
Tier-3 training is for the Army's rank and file and it's that training that has most recently begun at installations and deployed commands across the globe.