This week’s cartoon refers to the military discharge of six “highly trained” Arabic linguists. A couple of readers have pointed out that these guys were still at the Defense Language Institute when they were discharged, so “highly trained” may have been overstating the case. It’s hard to tell from this story the extent of their training, though the dischargees who are specifically discussed seem to consider themselves proficient (and it’s probably fair to assume that the DLI is not a haven for slackers). In any case, the point I was trying to make still stands: there’s a desperate shortage of Arabic translators, and for obvious reasons we need as many as we can get right now, so kicking these guys out because of their sexual orientation was incredibly stupid.

Afterthought: perhaps some of my readers in the military — and I do have them, believe it or not — can help set the record straight on this one (no pun intended this time).

Update: military readers respond (identifying details removed for obvious reasons).

Here is my take on the situation. I am a Sergeant in
the Army, stationed in ____________. I’ve been
in for ____ years. Your readers are right, they were
not “highly trained”, but were in the process of
becoming so. They were at the DLI to learn Arabic for
their new jobs as Arabic translators. DLI is no place
for slackers, as the course’s 68% pass rate attests
(I’ve never heard of an Army school with such a low
passing rate). The bottom line is, as you said, the
Army discharged 6 soldiers from an MOS (Military
Occupational Specialty) with a critical shortage of
soldiers for a poor reason (in my opinion, anyway, not
that I’m allowed to have one).

More interesting to me is the fact that we only know
that two soldiers were actually gay. The other seven
all told the commander that they were. Teling your
commander you are gay is the easiest way to get out of
the Army. After the murder of the gay soldier at Fort
Campbell, commanders want to get gay people out as
quickly as possible so that they don’t get killed. If
you tell your commander you are gay, you will get
discharged (honorably) in 72 hours. In comparison, my
friend is so injured that he hasn’t been able to carry
a weapon, march, run, or do any exercises for over two
years, and he will not be discharged for another 3
months. I suspect that they realized “Oh shit! I’m
going to Iraq to get gassed and die!” and decided to
get out ASAP.

Anyway, these are just my impressions on the story.
As long as the military has this assinine policy in
effect (Which we wouldn’t if Clinton had Harry
Truman’s balls and forced us to accept gays), stories
like this will happen.

* * *

I just saw your blog comment about the linguists and the complaint
that they were still at DLI. I just got off of active duty and spent
my last year at a Military Intelligence battalion and some of my best
friends were arabic linguists.

Now, this is no infantry unit. These guys sit around in Hummers all
day and interept transmissions. The fact that they were gay would put
very little stress on the soldiers around them in this environment.

Now, in defense of the armed forces, they have to uphold standards.
If someone lets it be known that they’re gay, then they have to be
discharged. That’s just the way the regulations read at the moment.
Of course, the current administration could change that, but there’s
no way Bush would do that no matter how much we needed these soldiers.