US Army dismisses gay Arabic linguists

  1. Because apparently men who want to kiss other men are a bigger threat to national security than foreign terrorists....

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Nine Army linguists, including six trained to speak Arabic, have been dismissed from the military because they are gay.

    The soldiers' dismissals come at a time when the military is facing a critical shortage of translators and interpreters for the war on terrorism.

    Seven of the soldiers were discharged after telling superiors they are gay, and the two others got in trouble when they were caught together after curfew, said Steve Ralls, spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group that defends homosexuals in the military.

    Six were specializing in Arabic, two were studying Korean and one was studying Mandarin Chinese. All were at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, the military's primary language training center.

    The government has aggressively recruited Arabic speakers since the Sept. 11 attacks.

    "We face a drastic shortage of linguists, and the direct impact of Arabic speakers is a particular problem," said Donald R. Hamilton, who documented the need for more linguists in a report to Congress as part of the National Commission on Terrorism.

    One of the discharged linguists said the military's policy on gays is hurting its cause.

    "It's not a gay-rights issue. I'm arguing military proficiency issues-they're throwing out good, quality people," said Alastair Gamble, a former Army specialist.

    Harvey Perritt, spokesman for the Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe in Tidewater, Va., confirmed the dismissals occurred between October 2001 and September 2002, but declined to comment further on the cases.

    He said 516 linguists enrolled in the Arabic course this year at the Monterey institute and 365 graduated.

    The military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy allows gays to serve provided they keep quiet about their sexual orientation.

    Gamble and former Pfc. Robert Hicks were discovered in Gamble's room during a surprise inspection in April, Gamble said.

    After their discharges, Gamble and Hicks applied for other federal jobs where they could use their language skills in the war on terrorism, but neither was hired, Gamble said.

    I cannot for a minute comprehend the logic of this. There is a desperate need for, and an embarassingly severe shortage of people with these skills. The 2 guys who were caught together after-hours I could see--I'm assuming they would be in violation of some sort of code-of-conduct regs--but the other 7? We seem to be shooting ourselves in the foot here.
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    About Stargazer

    Joined: Jan '01; Posts: 3,354; Likes: 62


  3. by   Youda
    What happened to the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy? Oh! That was under the Democrats. Now we have Republicans.

    During one of those World News reports awhile back, they carried a story talking about how difficult it was for the US to understand Arabic threats, because they didn't have enough translators. So I guess homophobia, as you said, is a greater problem than Al Queda. Talk about self-defeating behavior!
  4. by   bagladyrn
    And we're going to see more of this shortsighted, homophobic behavior now that the GOP, with the religious right influence, is in control.
  5. by   maureeno
    new terror threat of massive proportions released yesterday by the FBI......

    remember, before 9/11 we received intelligence, but could not translate ....

    "when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn.."
  6. by   LasVegasRN
    Okay, playing Devil's Advocate here, but everyone on the planet knows of the "Don't ask, Don't Tell" policy. So why would you go and TELL when you KNOW you'd be fired?
  7. by   sjoe
    One more reason to join the US Air Force instead of the Army. No curfews and only a very rare "surprise inspection." Only one of these surprises was sprung on us (who also happened to be linguists) during the four years I was in, (and the over-zealous new lieutenant responsible for it was severely reprimanded by his boss the next day, with all confiscated material returned to us).

    Vegas, to answer your question, during a "surprise inspection" the MPs entered one of these guys' rooms "after curfew," when they are supposed to be alone (for some Army reason or other) and found his buddy with him. They then searched the room and found "incriminating" letters, etc. These two guys didn't simply volunteer the information. The other guys, we don't know the stories yet, since there has been little information given.

    But the point isn't whether or why anyone volunteered data, but the priorities of our military and our government. Whether it is more important to discharge individuals with same-sex experience, or to increase our number of supposedly much-needed linguists. When these two matters are in conflict, which one is given the higher priority?

    And, in all fairness, there have been more people discharged every year for being gay after the "don't ask, don't tell" became policy than beforehand. (The Army and the Navy responsible for most of them.)
    Last edit by sjoe on Nov 15, '02
  8. by   Youda
    Gosh! Such bad timing! Such bad luck! Almost as if someone "knew" when to do a "surprise" inspection!
  9. by   Q.
    No comment on this thread. I DO know that my husband always went by the "don't ask, don't tell" thing. I'm with Vegas on this. WHY would they state they were gay or whatever happened? Just to *see* if they'd get fired? I'm sorry but that's common sense. The "Don't ask, don't tell" mentality has been around LOOOONNNGGG before Republicans controlled the offices.

    Edited to add: didn't see sjoe's post until after I posted. Again, then I ask, if you know of the "don't ask, don't tell" thing, WHY, when you know the threat of surprise inspection is a reality, would you be hanging out with your lover???!!
  10. by   kmchugh
    Actually, I think the military's policy on gays serving is pretty counterproductive. There are a number of gay service members at any time, and they perform their duties like any other service member. Some are good, some are great, and some need to find other employment. The issue is not, and cannot be, one of morality. The issue is whose business is it who is kissing who off duty. If one is in the chain of command over the other, that's a different issue, just as it is with heterosexual couples.

    An interesting tidbit or two:

    The senior command in the military ofted cites the security risk gays pose. Supposedly, a gay can easily be coerced into revealing classified information by threatening exposure. The fact is that of all the spies caught in the last century, not one was a gay who became a spy under threat of exposure.

    The don't ask-don't tell policy instituted by Bill Clinton poses a far greater security risk that one could imagine. It allows gay members to serve, provided their off duty activity does not become known. This is a perfect blackmail setup, that is an officially sanctioned blackmail setup, and it didn't really change anything. So, what's the answer? Take the position most of the rest of society has taken. Who cares? Not my business. If you do your job, and do it well, great, we need you. If your off duty activities are not illegal, they are not the business of your company commander.

    The military loses a huge number of service members annually owing to being gay. Many of these are members who have been highly trained at great expense. A friend of mine in Germany was trained as a German linguist and interrogator. He was placed in a key liaison office, and developed many good contacts in the German government (not spying. This kind of liaison is often established to facilitate exchange of information.) He was well thought of by both his superiors and the Germans with whom he interacted, and everyone knew he was gay. He wanted to stay in, but got out after realizing that when his security clearance investigation was updated, his personal life would become official knowledge. At that point, he would have been thrown out of the military, possibly with a less than honorable discharge. So, he took his honorable discharge at the end of his enlistment, and walked. The Army lost nearly $250,000 that it cost to train him, and a number of liaison contacts.

    Re: Security clearances. If you are a civilian working for the department of defense, and are openly gay, you can hold a security clearance. If you are in the military, you are a security risk, and cannot hold a clearance (and will be discharged).

    It's time this archaic policy ends. What our military needs to ask potential enlistees is what they can offer the military, not what their sexual preferences are.

    Kevin McHugh
    Last edit by kmchugh on Nov 15, '02
  11. by   sjoe
    You're right Kevin, but logic has never been the military's strongest point.