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Training for repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' going smoothly, military leaders say

Top military officials tell Congress that training for several branches will be finished as early as June.

April 08, 2011|By Julie Mianecki, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — Preparations for the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibits gays from serving openly in the military are going better than expected, military leaders told Congress on Thursday.

Top officials from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force testified before the House Armed Services Committee, and several said that training would be complete as early as June.

"I'm looking specifically for issues that might arise coming out of the training, and the reality is that we've not seen them," said Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps. "I've asked for feedback.... The clear majority of it is very positive."

This assessment represents a turnaround for several of the generals who vocally opposed the repeal when it was debated during last year's lame-duck congressional session.

In November, Amos said he was concerned about a possible loss of unit cohesion and combat readiness if the policy was repealed.

Amos told the committee Thursday that training for Marines would finish June 1. Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, gave July 1 as the Navy's completion date, and Gen. Norton Schwartz, chief of staff of the Air Force, said his branch's training would end about June 30. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army, did not give a date.

Several of the officers added to Amos' statement that the process has been easier than expected.

"Our training is going very well," Roughead said. "In those areas that we detected that there may be some areas of moderate risk … it is not at the level that we had originally forecasted. It is going rather well."

Still, Chiarelli and Schwartz said they were not willing to downgrade from moderate the level of risk to unit readiness, saying they were not far enough along in the training.

The repeal will take effect 60 days after President Obama, the secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that it will not be harmful to military operations to reverse the ban.

jmianecki@tribune.com

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