#1 Obama’s mark on the military by Rev 14.01.2015 18:09


Obama’s mark on the military

A deeply unpopular commander in chief is forcing profound change inside the ranks.

By Stephen Losey

In his first term, President Obama oversaw repeal of the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Then he broke with one of the military's most deeply rooted traditions and vowed to lift the ban on women serving in combat.

And the commander in chief has aggressively sought to change military culture by cracking down on sexual assault and sexual harassment, problems that for years were underreported or overlooked.

Obama is an unpopular president in the eyes of the men and women in uniform. Yet his two-term administration is etching a deep imprint on the culture inside the armed forces. As commander in chief, he will leave behind a legacy that will shape the Pentagon's personnel policies and the social customs of rank-and-file troops for decades to come.

For Obama's supporters, the cultural changes he's overseeing are on a level with President Truman's 1948 order that desegregated the military and put it at the forefront of the national push for racial equality.

But to his critics, his moves amount to heavy-handed social engineering that erode deep-seated traditions and potentially undermine good order and discipline.

And for the troops in today's career force, the wave of changes to deep-seated policies and attitudes can be jarring.

"It's a very different Army than the one I came in to," said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Rexilius, who joined the Army 21 years ago and is now a helicopter repairman at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.

"I personally don't think it's a bad change," he said — while acknowledging that among his cohort of older career soldiers, "I'm probably a minority."

"For most of my peers," Rexilius said, "it makes them uncomfortable because it's not what they are used to."

The long-term effects of Obama's social policies on the military remain unknown. But one thing is clear: He is a deeper unpopular commander in chief among the troops.

According to a Military Times survey of almost 2,300 active-duty service members, Obama's popularity — never high to begin with — has crumbled, falling from 35 percent in 2009 to just 15 percent this year, while his disapproval ratings have increased to 55 percent from 40 percent over that time.

But despite their misgivings about him personally, evidence suggests some quiet acceptance, and even support, for his policy changes.

'Don't ask, don't tell'

The greatest cultural shift under Obama may well be the swiftly-growing acceptance of homosexuality in the ranks following the official change in law that took effect in September 2011.

A Military Times poll in 2009 found 35 percent of troops felt that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve in uniform. Five years later, that figure has jumped to 60 percent.

Similarly, open opposition to homosexuality in the military has collapsed. In 2009, 49 percent of troops felt gays, lesbians and bisexuals should not be allowed to serve. In 2014, such disapproval fell to just 19 percent.

It is "the biggest change in the military's culture that happened on [Obama's] watch," said Richard Kohn, professor emeritus of history and peace, war and defense at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

During years of intense political debate about gays in the military, the military's top brass repeatedly voiced firm opposition and warned that such a sweeping change could create a serious morale crisis. But in the three years since the law changed, military leaders have seen virtually no problems.

"We have heard no reporting of the kinds of disruptions that were predicted," Kohn said. "It has been unsurprisingly smooth. It's not surprising because military people have always known of gay people and lesbians in their units, and have either accepted them, or abused them based on the quality of their leadership. There's been a change of public opinion, and the fact that the force is made up largely of young people," who tend to be more tolerant of homosexuality."

Petty Officer 2nd Class Nate Bates, a Navy hospital corpsman who is gay, said his co-workers essentially shrugged when they found out.

"It was like no big deal: ... 'Oh, OK, I didn't know, but we're still cool,' " he said.

The nonchalant reaction was a tremendous relief to Bates, who came out in January because he was about to marry his husband, Wayne, an Army soldier.

"I was nervous, but it had gotten to the point where, 'I'm getting ready to get married, but I'm not going to hide this person I love,' " Bates said. "I just didn't care what anybody else thinks about it."

And it's provided opportunities to increase understanding, Bates said. He cited one friendship with another sailor whom he didn't think had ever previously had a close friendship with a gay or lesbian person.

Now, "We ask him to hang out, he knows about my husband, he has a girlfriend and is thinking about getting married," Bates said. "He was asking us, 'Have you ever thought about adopting?' It's normal conversations like that."

But not every experience has been so positive.

Bates said his Army husband has encountered hostility from his commanders and fellow soldiers since coming out. He said his husband has heard senior noncommissioned officers use homophobic slurs.

His husband, who is in Kuwait on his fourth deployment overseas, hasn't been picked to go on missions he asked for, he believes because he is gay. And the Bates' request to be co-located as a legally married couple has been approved by the Navy but held up by the Army.

The final straw came in April, Bates said, when he contracted an unknown illness and ended up in an induced coma. His husband asked his supervisors for permission to come home to help care for Nate, but his request was denied. Particularly aggravating, Bates said, was the fact that other soldiers in his husband's unit were allowed to come home for less-urgent events like graduations.

"I was in the hospital seven days, and on convalescent leave another seven days at home," Bates said. "There was nobody by my bedside that whole time. Because of actions like that, he's leaving [the Army] within the next year and a half."

Some gay troops say lingering homophobia in the military still compels them to hide their sexuality while in uniform. And some don't think they'll ever be able to come out of the closet as long as they are in the uniform.

"Nothing's really changed for me" since the don't-ask-don't-tell policy was repealed, said a gay master sergeant in the Air Force who asked to remain anonymous. "I think [coming out] would ruin my career."

The master sergeant said that the end of DADT helped younger troops, who feel more comfortable coming out. But for senior noncommissioned officers, he said, it's a different story.

"For SNCOs, it's word of mouth for promotions," the master sergeant said. "We've still got some crusty old chiefs … on the promotion board, making decisions. It'll take a few years to get them out."

He said he's heard some Air Force chief master sergeants make derogatory, homophobic comments — sometimes including slurs — about younger airmen who have come out. And if those chiefs knew he was gay, he said, he could kiss goodbye any chances of making senior master sergeant.

Read more: MilitaryTimes

#2 RE: Obama’s mark on the military by Cincinnatus 14.01.2015 22:45


"For Obama's supporters, the cultural changes he's overseeing are on a level with President Truman's 1948 order that desegregated the military and put it at the forefront of the national push for racial equality."

And we haven't won a war since.

Just sayin'.

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