Defense Secretary Robert Gates in on a farewell tour of Afghanistan before he departs for his well deserved retirement and his position is taken over by current CIA head Leon Panetta. While on this tour, Gates rather bluntly told a group of Marines that they will not be able to opt out of their enlistment on the grounds that they disagree with the government’s decision to end the ban on lesbians and gays serving openly in the military. The answer came when a Marine sergeant asked about the repeal of the policy during a Q&A session at a base in Helmand Province.
This past December, Congress voted to end the policy known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but that will not go into effect until sixty days after the training of the troops is certified as being complete. It is expected that it will be the end of the year before DADT is finally over.
The Marine sergeant told Gates during the session:
“Sir, we joined the Marine Corps because the Marine Corps has a set of standards and values that is better than that of the civilian sector. And we have gone and changed those values and repealed the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.”
“We have not given the Marines a chance to decide whether they wish to continue serving under that. Is there going to be an option for those Marines that no longer wish to serve due to the fact their moral values have not changed?”
Gates then replied:
“No. You’ll have to complete your … enlistment just like everybody else.”
“The reality is that you don’t all agree with each other on your politics, you don’t agree with each other on your religion, you don’t agree with each other on a lot of things,” he added. “But you still serve together. And you work together. And you look out for each other. And that’s all that matters.”
“If we do this right, nothing will change. You will still have to abide by the same rules of behavior, the same discipline, the same respect for each other that has been the case through all the history of the Marine Corps.”
Both Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen support the repeal of DADT.