Sunday, February 22, 2009

Specialist Amy Brian and the Harm of DADT

The matter of Amy Brian, formerly of the Kansas National Guard, raises serious questions about the impact of Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) on retention of qualified personnel, as well as basic human fairness and American Fair Play.

As reported in the Kansas City Star
"She joined the Guard in 1991 as a high school senior and served until 1994, when she married. She had a son and eventually divorced. She re-enlisted in 2003. The following year, just as she was preparing for a deployment in Iraq, she told her parents she was gay.

“I just found myself,” Brian said. “My mom and dad were supportive. They knew their grandson was being taken care of and that the woman I was with was good for me. They just didn’t want me to flaunt it.”

She then drove in a convoy from Kuwait to Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq.

Brian soon became accustomed to daily mortar fire that might last from 20 minutes to a few hours. The soldiers jokingly referred to the base as “Mortaritaville” during the bombardments.

Brian worked 12-hour shifts on a vehicle maintenance crew. Later, she was assigned to narrate award ceremonies, write evaluations and perform office work. She did not see combat, but she did see Iraqi children in the camp hospital being treated for injuries that included missing limbs from roadside bombs.

In October 2005, Brian left Iraq and returned to her full-time job at the U.S. Property and Fiscal Office, which is part of the Kansas Guard’s Topeka headquarters.

She worked as a secretary and then moved up to purchasing and contracting. She completed college and enrolled in Friends University to earn a master’s degree in business administration.

Then in August 2008, a lieutenant told her she was being investigated for homosexual conduct. A civilian co-worker claimed to have seen Brian kissing a woman at a Wal-Mart.

Someone else began sending anonymous e-mails to as many as 12 officers in Brian’s chain of command, saying Brian was gay. The e-mails gave the address of a Web site — not her MySpace page — showing her photograph and revealing her sexual orientation.

The accusations led the Guard to begin an investigation. Brian chose not to request a hearing before a board of three officers. To do so risked a dishonorable discharge if they found her guilty.

Instead, she resigned from the property office in September. She continued her military affiliation until Jan. 13, when she received a general discharge under honorable conditions.

“Each (accusation) alone may not have been enough,” said Brian’s appointed counsel, Maj. Jared Maag, senior defense counsel for Trial Defense Services for the Kansas National Guard. “But combine them, the command obviously thought they had enough to go forward.”

Maag said he has requested a low re-entry code for Brian, which would make it easier for her to re-enlist should the policy change.

But Brian said she doesn’t know if she would re-enlist. Losing her $22-an-hour job was bad enough, but she also lost her education benefits, which prevented her from completing her master’s degree."

The full article by Malcom Garcia is here.

Let us summarize:
  • The soldier served honorably and well in a combat zone
  • The specialist's sexual orientation did not affect her service or that of her unit
  • She didn't out herself; a nosy person decided to complain about something that had nothing to do with them, one or more cowards launched an anonymous email campaign, and command (in a time of war) declined to use its prerogative of Nelson's blind eye
  • The soldier lost a job and educational benefits
  • Our nation lost a soldier.
Was this really wise?

Was this really American?


rewinn said...

Another case: Air Force ROTC cadet Mara Boyd. At the top of her class, she joined ROTC a couple of years before figuring out she's gay. Anyone with any knowledge of the world knows that lots of people don't figure it all out until way after college, if ever; requiring this as a condition for entering ROTC wastes resources, to say the least.

Boyd sounds like someone we'd want on our side:
“I’ll consider joining up. If the ban is lifted, I will really want to be a part of that transition in the military,” Boyd told me. “To finish a commitment that I didn’t get to finish. I still have that emptiness of not having been able to see it through.

“I’d like to be a part of it as a part of the gay community and also to return to my military family.”

Ending ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ too little too late for gay cadet, By Wendy Norris of the Colorado Independent

Anonymous said...

What really burns me is the general discharge. That could potentially keep her from a lot of benefits, and she did nothing wrong whatsoever in the course of her duties--like you note, she was snooped on off duty and off post, and did her job well. That decision was clearly rank and status based--anyone with more would have gotten better.