The new army policy does not only affect the army and the gay community. The new policy is also in effect foreign policy by proxy. Army culture is not currently ready for this new policy, and stresses brought on by the new policy will inevitably manifest on the battlefield in Afghanistan which will change the way that our enemy and the local people living around the battlefield view America and our military.
The US Army has had for its entire existence a culture of Alpha, can-do macho, Males. The profession itself has drawn upon America’s bravest men. Although there are many brave women in the Army, there are not nearly as many female soldiers as male soldiers. The ratio is approximately seventy-five percent male to twenty-five percent female. The majority of the Army is enlisted; roughly 6:1. This means that the backbone of the Army is men who work by the sweat of their brows. Along with this condition there is also a culture of peer pressure and command, ordering subordinates to lift themselves up by their boot straps, shut their mouths, let out a battle cry, and kill the enemy before they kill you or your buddy. In the Army emotions are often not acceptable. As put by a company commander, stationed in the Atlanta area, interviewed the Army culture is “sleep, eat, drink, don’t sleep, kill, crap, sex, and do it again.” (The officer requested not to be named)
The Army needs to be this way. Culture is by definition social control. Unlike the rest of America, the Army requires extreme efficiency in selective areas of operation in order to maximize effectiveness on the battlefield. To achieve this level of efficiency the Army is organized into a command and control structure. However, to maintain a functional command and control system the Army must reeducate and indoctrinate recruits. Basic Training is first and foremost a crash course in Army culture.
There is already a large homosexual community in the Army. It is impossible to know the true number because of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, but it is estimated that the number of bisexual or homosexual women in the Army is somewhere between twenty-five to forty percent of all female soldiers. This has not become a large problem because many of the homosexual female soldiers integrate well into Army culture. Lesbian soldiers often fit in with other male soldiers because of a common interest in women. Lesbian soldiers, therefore, have a tendency to become one of the guys.
The living conditions situation of both male and female soldiers is one of the largest concerns about the new openly gay policy. Working conditions in the Military are not like those found in the civilian world. In the Army soldiers often spend twenty-four hours a day seven days a week in closely overlapping and highly stressful living conditions. Soldiers often shower, change, and defecate in front of other soldiers; it is quite remarkable the amount of time that soldiers are naked and exposed in the presence of other soldiers. Although this is unavoidable in “the sandbox,” Army culture has designed its garrison environment to be this way purposefully. Although over the past several years the Army’s Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers (BOSS) program has been expanding, bay style barracks with community showers is often required at many long duration training events. The purpose of this policy is to develop camaraderie, unit cohesiveness, and battlefield psychological conditioning; as well as save money.
Despite growing acceptance of homosexuality in general throughout the army, male soldiers already feel the pressure rising of being “meat” to gay men in the locker room (the actual thoughts and intentions of the gay soldiers being separate to how strait solders feel). Unlike after football practice there is nowhere to go; soldiers are going to be forced into this stressful condition. The consequence of this new policy in a warrior culture environment is going to be hazardous and extremely stressful within in the Army community; expressly in combat arms units. Some straight soldiers are going to want to react violently to undo the stress of becoming what they perceive, possibly inaccurately, to be sexual pray. However, Army policy is going to come down very hard on straight soldiers who press any conceivable form of stress upon homosexual soldiers inorder to expedite cultural integration. It has already been made clear to many troops that if they go to a chaplain and request separation as a “conscientious objector” because of the new Army policy, then they will receive an other than or less than honorable discharge.
The actual level of stress that will be emerging over the next few years is hard to predetermine. It is unknown to what degree the homosexual community will mobilize to exercise their new liberty. Therefore the level of its secondary effect as an unintended foreign policy is also unknown. The Culture in Afghanistan is staunchly against the idea of falling in love with someone of the same sex, so how the enemy will spin this new policy to its advantage is unclear as well. However two things are clear. First, the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” will have an effect on the war in Afghanistan. And two, it is impressive how far three percent of the US population can move national public policy.
Never compel your burdens upon other people, rather help other people carry their burdens