Post-DADT Training: Look to Israel & European Allies for Examples
The U.S. military is preparing for the repeal of the much-reviled "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell" rule that has applied for two decades, now scheduled for Sept. 20. Policymakers, meanwhile, are looking to other military bodies around the world that have successfully integrated LGB soldiers into military service. (Transgender persons are not permitted to join the ranks, even after the repeal takes place.)
One of those allies is the Israeli Defense Forces, or IDF, a highly trained and well-respected military around the world. In Israel, military service is obligatory for men and women. And for many years, the IDF limited service by openly gay members of the military by requiring servicemembers to undergo psychiatric evaluations, which would often trigger a discharge. Gay people were also banned from top-secret positions in the military.
In 1983, the ban on gays in top-secret positions was relaxed. Then, in the early ’90s, a review committee in parliament recommended dropping the ban. Israel was incidentally one of the first to integrate totally out soldiers. Tiny Israel found it couldn’t afford to alienate any potential soldiers.
The current Israeli policy states, "There is no limit on the induction of homosexuals to the army, and their induction is according to the criteria that apply to all candidates to the army."
While data shows that in the IDF and the militaries of four other U.S. allies (Britain, Canada, South Africa and Australia) the transitions to policies of equal treatment without regard to sexual orientation have been highly successful and have had no negative impact on morale, recruitment, retention, readiness or overall combat effectiveness, the truth is that it is the post-openly gay service training and programs that have kept gay and lesbian troops safe, allowed them to be accepted, and that educate the ranks -- from the bottom up -- about how to better communicate, live and work alongside their LGB troops.
There’s no doubt that the repeal of DADT is a big step forward for gay rights. . But a Tel Aviv University researcher warns that the repeal alone won’t lead necessarily to a more tolerant environment for gay and bisexual men and women in the military. A new study from the university suggests that an integrated support and education dimension is essential to the successful assimilation of these soldiers into the U.S. armed forces.
Dr. Guy Shilo of TAU’s Bob Shapell School of Social Work has completed a quantitative study detailing the LGB experience in the military. While IDF technically maintain an open-door policy to service by LGB soldiers, Dr. Shilo says soldiers continue to experience anxiety and harassment surrounding their sexual orientation. "The best solution is an educational system for all service people across the military spectrum," he concludes.