American combat troops will get sensitivity training directly on the battlefield about the military’s new policy on gays instead of waiting until they return to home base in the United States, the senior enlisted man in Afghanistan said Thursday.
The Pentagon is launching an extensive force-wide program to ease the process of integrating open homosexuals into the ranks, including into close-knit fighting units.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill, the top enlisted man in Afghanistan where 100,000 U.S. troops are deployed, said that the sessions on respecting gays’ rights will go right down to the forward operating bases, where troops fight Taliban militants.
“We will take our directions from the Department of Defense, from the secretary of defense, the chairman, as well as the service chiefs of each service. Our plan is to take their direction, and we’re going to execute that training right here on the battlefield.”
No unit is exempted, he said.
“Our goal is to not allow a unit to return to home station and have the unit responsible for that,” he said. “While we own those soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, we’re going to execute that training on the ground. We hope that it will have little impact on their combat and security operations here.”
President Obama signed a bill in December to repeal the ban, called “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which required gay troops to hide their sexuality. However, the ban will stay in effect until the secretary of defense certifies that repeal of the policy will not hurt combat readiness.