Operation Gratitude Care Package Weekend!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Nothing to Tell, But They Asked Me Anyway...

...or, "My big DADT adventure"...
"That man distinctly ogled my genitalia, captain.
File charges immediately."
Once I finished my active duty service, I was serving in the NY Army National Guard in the mid-1980's.  After a certain incident occurred (the term "organized a mutiny" seems so judgmental but it was in a damned good cause and I don't regret it), I was basically ruined as an enlisted man, so I was sent off to become an officer.  I finished OCS in the state program, and then I was sent off to Fort Benning for my infantry officer's basic course.


Now understand, I was a bit behind the curve here.  I was already pushing thirty (from one side or the other), and Guard units in the 80's were maybe not as physically rigorous in their training as they could be.  Plus, and I know this will be hard for anyone who knows me today to believe, I might not personally have been as entirely diligent as I could have been about my own fitness. Virtually all the other butterbars were in their early twenties, active duty.


So I loved IOBC but physically it was kicking my ass and taking my lunch money.


Anyway, field exercise.  Full kit. ALICE pack, LBE, M60, ammo, helmet, water, MOPP gear, etc. Sunny Ft. Benning, Georgia, always a summer pleasure. Size eight blood blisters inside size ten boots.  Much walking. Stopped walking. Dropped pack.  My lower back promptly began to offer opinions on my character and antecedents.  I grounded my 60, stuck both hands in my back and stretched... a position known to Mel Brooks fans as "the French Mistake" but with more snapping and popping.
Therapeutic but unmilitary
We get back in from the field and I get called in to our company commander's office, a Regular Army captain. Is there something I want to tell him?  Nervous incomprehension.  Remember, I was just out of OCS, where we were taught a pretty limited set of responses to superior officers, most of which consisted of 'Sir, yes, sir' and 'Sir, no sir,' or some pretty restricted elaborations thereon.


The captain starts talking very carefully. "One of your fellow officers reports that he saw you standing in an... unmilitary fashion.  With your hands on your... hips."


Now understand, we're right back out of the field.  I'm still wearing the same uniform I wore on the speed march back to main post.  My back is still hurting. Damn near as much as my vanity.


So I go off into a very polite, reasonable-toned, "by your leave, sir," kind of rant. I point out that I've already been running a Guard platoon, between my OCS and IOBC courses, and that I have a good working relationship with the sergeants, that I'm keeping up with the PT requirements of the course and active in the coursework, and that I take it poorly that one of my "fellow officers" is petty enough to be worrying about my posture. (Yeah, the butterbar was listing his military achievements. I know, I know...)


Anyway. Yes.  I was that clueless.


The captain stares at me for a moment, then tells me to watch my posture and dismisses me.


About ten years later, I'm walking down Ventura Boulevard and I literally stop in the middle of the sidewalk and yell "SONOFABITCH!"


Yes.  It took me that long.


Now, here's the thing I think about.  What if I hadn't been that clueless?  What if I had got what that captain, a good and diligent officer, was hinting at?  What if I had tried to defend myself against the insinuation I was gay?  How do you defend against that sort of suspicion?  Look around yourselves in your own workplaces and classrooms.  There are men and women you suspect are gay... no, check that, there are men and women you know are gay — without their volunteering the information and without your asking.  And let's face it, there is nothing they could do to convince you differently.  All I could have done was help cement the suspicion in my commanders' minds.  And how would that have affected my progress in IOBC, how might it have been reflected in my Officers' Efficiency Reports, documents that rival Mandarin court poetry in their arcana of phrasing and context?


Is that an unreasonable concern?  There was already some pending Patton among us who had time to go around ogling his fellow lieutenants' hips and running to the CO.


Which is why I was never that incensed about DADT.


Are there gays in the service?  Oh hell yes.  Always were, always will be.  That's why ALL the services had regulations against sodomy, for when they transgressed military law.  That's why we have the same regulations now for heterosexual misconduct. (No, we don't hang hetero offenders but then we don't hang gays anymore either)  They are necessary regulations for both both straight and gay military service.


Have gays in the military done our country damage?  Certainly I remember Bradley Manning, and the notorious Kim Philby for the Brits...  But I also remember Thomas Disch, the science fiction author, gay as a Paris spring (a six-foot-thirteen, 300-lb Paris spring)... who won the Silver Star as a BAR gunner in Korea.  And Aldrich Ames and the Walkers were straight as a plumb line.  Could gays be blackmailed with their gender preference. Sure.  As long as it matters to their superiors.  It's less of a lever if the CID response is "Yeah, so?"


So I'm not especially concerned about the disappearance of DADT.  The regulations and disciplinary mechanisms are in place... as are the less formal but no less real peer-enforced rules of the barracks.  A "predatory gay" in a forty-man platoon is a VERY short term problem, as should be a "predatory straight" in a mixed-gender unit.


Unless the civilian leadership of the military does something Carter-esquely stupid and begins making major changes in training, housing, etc., for gay personnel that would only highlight their presence, this is a "problem" the military is already set up to handle.  Fortunately, according to the service papers, the forces are NOT planning to make such foolish and aggravating changes.  The military will adapt to this better than the politicians and pundits will, and, I suspect, will continue to perform their mission with new gay enlistees as well as it performs them with the gays in the service now.


And future second lieutenants will have less to worry about their fellows eyeballing their asses...



"Eyes off the ass, buddy, or yer goin' on report!"

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