Pentagon: DADT training will begin next month

By Ed O'Keefe
Friday, January 28, 2011; 7:15 PM

Using lectures, videos and PowerPoint slides, the Pentagon plans to start training commanders, chaplains and troops next month on how to adjust to a military that will allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in uniform, a critical step in ending the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, officials said Friday.

The new guidelines come as President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates vowed this week to lift the ban this year, a promise in line with the expectations of gay rights groups who are seeking a swift end to the policy.

Each of the military services will be responsible for the specifics of training, which will occur in three phases. Military chaplains, lawyers and civilian personnel will go first, followed by commanding officers and the rank-and-file. The services will focus on training troops before they deploy, but some training may take place on the battlefront, officials said.

"Moving along expeditiously is better than dragging it out," Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James E. Cartwright said Friday in a briefing with reporters.

The services must submit detailed training plans to Gates by next Friday. Training should focus on reminding troops to treat one another with respect, that no policy will be established solely based on sexual orientation and that harassment or unlawful discrimination of any service member is prohibited, he said in a memo instructing the changes.

Training is likely to be led by instructors, and may include written materials, videos, vignettes describing different elements of military life and PowerPoint slides outlining the changes. Each individual will need to certify that he or she completed the training, Cartwright said.

Obama, Gates and Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen should be able to certify that the military is ready to end the ban before every service member has been trained, Cartwright said, but neither he nor Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, would say how long they thought individual training sessions would last.

"When you're dealing with 2.5 million people, we're probably going to have some discoveries as we go," Cartwright said. Military leaders will meet every two weeks to review potential concerns or delays.

"We do take it seriously. It won't be a 'Here, read this' and move on," Cartwright said later.

Stanley said few, if any changes to military personnel policy and benefits programs are required, because the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits extending most medical, housing and travel benefits to same-sex partners. The Pentagon will continue to explore whether gay troops could designate same-sex partners as beneficiaries, he said in a memo outlining changes.

Once the ban is lifted, the military will no longer be able to remove troops for being gay and will cease investigations of troops who allegedly violated the policy, the memo said. Current military policy on free speech, religious expression and equal opportunity is also adequate, he said.

Service members discharged for violating "don't ask, don't tell" will be eligible to reenlist, but "there will be no preferential treatment" for them. Troops dismissed for violating the ban will not be eligible for retroactive pay, Stanley said.

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