Jarrod Chlapowski

Dissembling a Discharge: Air Force Boots Gay Airman

Filed By Jarrod Chlapowski | June 03, 2011 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Air Force, military, pentagon, Servicemembers United, White House

Yesterday the military acknowledged an airman was discharged in April under DADT. Wait, what?! Yep. AF.jpg

Here's the thing: the DOD has made it pretty darn clear it is basically impossible to discharge anyone under DADT unless they want to be discharged. And by want, like really really want. Like request an expedited discharge from the Secretary of the Air Force after being reminded of the pending demise of DADT, want. Which seems to be exactly what occurred.

I say 'seems to be' as not much else has been released, and likely won't be released unless this airman wants his or her information aired publicly. Most don't.

I don't know if any of you remember this: In 2002 there was a mass discharges of linguists under DADT from the Defense Language Institute. In fact, this group was the impetus for the focus on linguists in a subsequent study by what is now the Palm center, which in turn created the linguist talking point in the fight for repeal. What is not well known is not all of those discharges were involuntary (well, as involuntary as a DADT discharge can be).

Here's what happened: Periodically, the Army (not sure about the other branches) will conduct what are called 'health and welfares,' where leadership will choose an hour late at night to conduct a mass unannounced barracks inspection to search for contraband (such as fireworks, drugs, underage alcohol, or unapproved ordinance). Inevitably untoward activity will also be uncovered. One of these health and welfares occurred on a Friday night in early 2002.

Caught were a number of folks in various situations: a few gay couples who had obviously conducted gay activity, a few gay couples who were sleeping in separate beds fully clothed, and a number of straight couples in similarly varied situations. The straight couples were each given a nudge and a slap on the wrist and sent back to their barracks room. The clothed gay couples were charged with violating curfew and restricted to post conducting extra chores for a 45 day period (also known as a 45/45). The other couples were eventually discharged.

Wait, you say. That's only 4 discharges under DADT. I thought about 9 were kicked out in that run?

So here's what happened next: the clothed gay couples were for all intents and purposes out to their respective units following the health and welfare. I was in the same unit and can verify their treatment wasn't bad following the revelation - in fact, most of the unit already suspected they were gay and didn't care. However, now more out than before they were also at risk for discharge much more than before. So the couple decided to finish their language training and submit letters of admission to their respective platoon sergeants. They had not initially intended on outing themselves, but, after weighting the costs and benefits of staying in, they chose to get out on their own terms.

Not caught in the health and welfare was a few others: one was kicked out after admitting to her psychologist she was a lesbian. One had intended all along to finish his training as a linguist and submit his admission letter upon graduation.

Why is this story relevant? Out of all these discharges, only a few were considered a 'homosexual act,' the rest 'homosexual admission.' So 'admission' can mean many, many things.

The larger lesson, however, is the last case, in which DADT was abused to take advantage of one of the best language schools in the world without providing any of the associated service obligation. Is this the best anecdote to use to argue for DADT's demise? Not really. But it can be said that such abuses wouldn't be possible if DADT were taken off the books.

Now, the question is whether the most recent discharge is an example of DADT abuse (weird concept, right?). While we don't know for certain, the circumstances around the discharge that have been revealed certainly creates that picture. This is not unusual. Janes and Joes reconsider serving all the time, and many would jump at the prospect of a 'get out of jail free' card like DADT.

So where do we go from here? Well, for one thing, this story highlights the fact that DADT is still on the books, and will be until certification by the President, Chairman, and SECDEF say otherwise. Combined with Gates's departure at the end of the month and Mullen's at the end of September, as well as the lack of drama surrounding the significant amount of implementation training among the troops themselves, we now have a pretty strong case for certification in June. Use it.

But make sure you understand the facts.

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DADT or no DADT just like anyone else there are going to be LGB screwups that need to be kicked out this person might have just used it to take the easiest way out for them. Putting extra scrutiny on why they were discharged I don't think should be always justified. Also lets not forget that there are TS/TG people that must now and indefinitely remain silent or be booted out. Has anyone thought to offer them ideas on how to remain undetected?

Thanks for the inside info, Jarrod. It's good to know this wasn't your usual "Get the fuck out" type of DADT discharge.