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New Marine Commandant Fears ‘Risk’ In Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Gen. James Amos, the new commandant of the Marine Corps, told reporters on Saturday “that he was concerned about a possible loss of unit cohesion and combat readiness if the ban is overturned”:

“There’s risk involved; I’m trying to determine how to measure that risk,” Gen. James Amos said. “This is not a social thing. This is combat effectiveness. That’s what the country pays its Marines to do.” […]

Amos said the policy’s repeal may have unique consequences for the Marines, which is exempt from a Defense Department rule for troops to have private living quarters except at basic training or officer candidate schools. The Marines puts two people in each room to promote a sense of unity.

“There is nothing more intimate than young men and young women — and when you talk of infantry, we’re talking our young men — laying out, sleeping alongside of one another and sharing death, fear and loss of brothers,” he said. “I don’t know what the effect of that will be on cohesion. I mean, that’s what we’re looking at. It’s unit cohesion, it’s combat effectiveness.”

Amos registered his personal opposition to repealing the ban during his confirmation hearing in September, but stressed that the Pentagon’s review of the policy would inform the military about how best to implement a repeal and allow the Marines Corp to change the policy “smartly.”

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Countering Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) argument that the Pentagon’s study won’t tell military leaders if repeal would undermine military effectiveness, Amos insisted that “at the end of the day, when all of this information comes to whoever is the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps in December….will be able to give his best military advise on that.” “If this policy is changed. The last thing you’re going to see your Marine Corps do is try to step in and push it aside. That will simply not be the case,” Amos added. “There will be issues, we’re going to work through them.”

He also said, “If you step away from the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell there are lots of things that go on today in the American military that the average Marine out there might not agree with. But the one thing we have in the Marine Corp is we got discipline and we got leadership and those are the two things that are I think the one thing that’s going to carry they day for us should the law get changed.”

Significantly, many foreign military leaders raised so-called “proximity” issue — which was echoed by Amos’ predecessor Gen. Conway — before allowing open service within their forces. Once gays were allowed to serve openly, however, they found that “the presence of gay peers has no bearing on unit social cohesion.”