As Army officers with combat experience, we appreciate the recent Op-Ed column by Maj. Daniel L. Davis regarding recent polling of service personnel about homosexual troops and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy (“Homosexuals in the military,” Wednesday).
He brings a welcome voice in the debate over the issue, and his analysis of a recent Zogby poll shows that he correctly places value in its results (as it’s the only scientifically valid survey to date of the opinions of military combat personnel). His passion for a combat-effective military is laudable. However, his rationale and conclusions bear further scrutiny.
The Zogby poll specifically asked about the impact of known homosexuals on unit morale. Among service members who knew there were homosexual members in their unit, 64 percent said there was no impact on unit morale, compared to only 27 percent who thought there was a negative impact. But when the troops did not know for certain there were homosexuals in their unit, 26 percent thought there would be no impact, compared to 58 percent who thought there would be a negative impact. Thus, when the reality of homosexuals serving alongside the troops is known, much of the assumed negative impact disappears.
Maj. Davis puts a lot of emphasis on the fact that 37 percent of the combat and combat support troops did not favor allowing homosexuals to serve openly, compared to 26 percent who did (with 32 percent being neutral and 5 percent unsure). Yet, like the above data, when these numbers are analyzed with respect to the personal knowledge of the existence of homosexual troops in their own unit, there is a significant shift in opinion toward allowing homosexuals to serve openly (unpublished data supplied by the Zogby poll analysts).
Above and beyond the mere numbers, however, we must also remember that our men and women in uniform are consummate professionals who carry out the leadership example set by officers and senior noncommissioned officers. As such, any views that religious differences could create a climate of distrust simply do not stand up. In fact, homosexual troops are already serving with the knowledge of their peers, and by all evidence their units are performing admirably, regardless of individual service members’ religious backgrounds. This demonstrates that differing religious views are not a detriment to combat readiness. As a senior Army officer recently told us, “our soldiers are not white, black, brown, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, gay, straight or whatever — our soldiers are all Army green.”
The bottom line is simply this: many homosexual troops are already serving openly in both combat and combat support operations. This fact is known by many of their peers. Nearly three-quarters of combat and combat support troops say they are comfortable working with homosexuals and lesbians.
Unit cohesion and combat readiness in our military is the best in the republic’s history, clearly not diminished by the known presence of homosexual troops. It’s time for military leaders to call for an end to the outdated law that prevents capable patriotic Americans from honestly serving their country or, worse, forces the military to discharge much-needed highly trained and experienced personnel. It’s long past time to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”