Steve Ralls

Don't Ask, Don't Recruit

Filed By Steve Ralls | October 18, 2007 9:36 AM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Andrea Stone, Don't Ask Don't Tell, military, recruiting, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, steve ralls, usa today

The United States military has admitted to making a mistake: It almost (and for a few minutes) recruited qualified gay Americans for the armed forces.

But there'll be no more of that now, thank you very much.

This morning's USA Today reports on a series of recruitment ads placed on the LGBT website The ads - which were for chaplains, linguists (who we know the military desperately needs) and lawyers, among others - were put on the gay networking site as part of a 'diversity' partnership with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network turned the ads over to Andrea Stone at USA Today . . . and this morning, the military says it made a mistake by posting them in the first place, and is taking action to wipe them off the gay web once and for all.

The true irony, of course, is that the military could really use a few good (gay) men and women right now. The armed forces are issuing a record number of waivers to boost their recruitment numbers; they've even welcomed hundreds of convicted felons into the fighting forces. Yet, two gay service members are fired from the military every day . . . more than 11,000 since "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" went into effect . . . including nearly 800 people with skills deemed 'mission-critical' by the Pentagon itself.

Yes, there is irony here, but there's also a good bit of stupidity, too.

The military, however, is putting its 'morals' above its needs. When asked about the ads, the Army National Guard, at least, pleaded ignorance . . . and moral superiority, too, it seems.

"This is the first I've heard about it," said Maj. Michael Baptista, advertising branch chief for the Army National Guard, which will spend $6.5 million on Internet recruiting this year. "We didn't knowingly advertise on that particular website," which he said does not "meet the moral standards" of the military.

Felons meet the moral standards of the armed forces, but good, upstanding gay Americans do not.

And remember: These are the people running the war.

Now the ads - part of a "diversity and inclusion" package (oh, so much irony to soak up here!) - are being pulled from GLEE. More than 8,000 ads in total will be stripped from the site and the military will revert back to its "Don't Ask, Don't Recruit" policy. And, one imagines, someone in the armed forces will be in very hot water today.

And while it is, indeed, fun to poke the military's eye just a bit for their gay recruiting tactics (did recruiters earn toaster ovens, a la Ellen?), the reality behind the story is all too serious: There's still a "Gays Not Welcome" sign on the Pentagon door, and the military is still forced to abide by "Don't Ask, Don't Recruit."

Now, Congress should step in and change the law, so those ads on GLEE could actually stay.

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The other irony is that the young elite of the military, relatively speaking, don't care about gays and lesbians serving openly. When I was in college, I went with a group of students to West Point to visit a sociology class. A "sosh" professor there -- who, by the way, was one of a very few civilian profs -- had asked some local queers (us) to come down to the campus and put some real gay faces on the issue of homosexuality, which he was teaching as part of a "deviance" unit. So we went and met with a bunch of cadets and some brass. And by and large, the cadets said they didn't care about gay people and they didn't care about don't ask, don't tell -- which, in a room with some brass, was obviously code for "we think it's dumb and should be repealed."

The only arguments we, the panel, got into were with higher ups, which basically said it's the military's job to save lives, not to pander to special interest groups.

Interesting point -- I'd never thought of American citizens as a special interest group.

Nevertheless, I left that meeting heartened for the future. The kids that go to schools like West Point are the kids who could have gone to schools like Harvard, Princetown, Yale, etc. They were just as much as part of the American youth culture of today -- arguably much more accepting of various identities and sexualities than it used to be. And whether they're able or willing to stand up for inclusion at the age of 19, 20, 21, they didn't leave all of that exposure at the door.

Maybe they don't need linguists as bad as they need cunnilingous...