New Training Leaves Gay Soldiers Behind

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(This post submitted by Professor Diane H. Mazur, University of Florida College of Law)

A recent article in the New York Times described a new Army program that trains soldiers in "emotional resiliency." The training is designed to give soldiers mental tools to resist problems such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide. Essentially, the idea is that the "Army Strong" of recruiting commercials includes mental toughness just as much as physical toughness.

Army sergeants-mid-level supervisors who are the backbone of the service-are attending role-playing sessions to learn how to teach their subordinates new ways of dealing with stress, frustration, and uncertainty. Soldiers will be encouraged to specifically focus on and reconsider their old, unexamined habits of thinking and reacting, such as a tendency to always assume the worst. The Army's most senior general said the program would give soldiers "better ways to cope."

To make sure the training is helpful, the Army will require soldiers to regularly fill out questionnaires about their mental health and also describe "the strength of their social support." Senior military officials have now realized they need to know their people better. They have to understand more about the social support, both military and civilian, that soldiers need for good health and good performance.

Even the Marines, the proverbial "tough guys," realize this. Like the Army, the Marine Corps's suicide rate has risen to record levels. Sergeants and corporals have been ordered "to become more involved and knowledgeable about the intimate details of the lives of their young charges," according to a USA Today article about Marine efforts to prevent suicide.

Except if those soldiers or Marines happen to be gay. Then the Army and Marine Corps don't want to know much of anything that might matter to a young military member in distress. The federal law known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" prohibits a servicemember from telling anyone information that could reveal he or she is gay.

One of the cruelest consequences of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is the way it stops gay servicemembers from sharing information about their personal lives. If they receive an Army questionnaire asking about the strength of their social support, they have to lie if that social support includes a partner (or a married spouse, in a few states). They have to actively resist the efforts of a Marine sergeant (which can't be easy) who is trying to become more involved and knowledgeable about their personal lives, because if the sergeant is successful, they will be discharged.

And, amazingly, all this is the result of programs designed to strengthen the military's mental health and support those who serve us all. Unfortunately, the message for gay members of the military is too often "You're on your own."

Comments

Thanks for sharing the story

Thanks for sharing the story with us ....

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jord
OSHA Training

Indeed impressive! The

Indeed impressive! The problem is that very few will be capable to lift such weight. Modern warfare needs fast movement, light weapons and heavy armors. I understand that most of those technologies are just prototypes right now and I wish they will evolve for the sake of our troops. Personally, I encourage every tech that is indented to save lifes, but as most of us prefer peace. I was a soldier back on the first Gulf war and now I run a small biz about shared web hosting services, which I started a few months ago. I would like to say that military should also educate and improve its personnel to whatever aspect shows interest. For instance I loved web technologies, which is why I entered web hosting industry. Others will have other interests. Military should seed these talents, so whenever we will leave army we have the necessary dexterities to continue our lifes…

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