One of the first American casualties of the Iraqi war was an exchange officer
who was flying in a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter when it collided with another
Sea King over the Persian Gulf. The officer, Thomas Mullen Adams, 27, was part
of an exchange programme in which American and British forces send soldiers to
fly with one another as a way of sharing tactical information. Glenn Truitt,
a classmate of Adams' from the Naval Academy and a former submarine officer,
said such exchange programmes have been in place since World War II. He explained
that their purpose is "to make sure we all have the best information" about air
tactics, which are constantly being refined and developed.
Mr. Truitt said it was no surprise to him that American soldiers could work effectively
with the more gay-friendly British military. As a submarine officer, he knew of gay soldiers
on his command, and he said their professionalism rose to even higher levels than
that of straight soldiers. "The homosexual men I knew in the military were much more
professional about their sexuality than the heterosexuals," he said, "if only because
they had to be" to gain full acceptance.
Maj. Gen. Bill Nash (Ret.), a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations,
stressed that concerns about the presence of female and openly gay soldiers in fighting
units arose less during actual combat than in training. "Most of the issues about women
and gays take place when the bullets aren't flying," he said. "When you're fighting, you've
got other things on your mind."
His comments seemed to imply that the integration of female and openly gay soldiers into
fighting units did not relate to combat performance, but reflected more generalized
social concerns: "There are a lot of disciplinary issues that, unless they are directly
related to combat performance, are not addressed on the battlefield."
In the Congress, U.S. Rep. Martin Meehan, a Massachusetts Democrat, viewed the success
of coalition fighting as further proof that allowing known gays to serve in the
military does not compromise combat performance. "The adherents to the ban have
never been able to produce any evidence that allowing gay men and lesbians to
serve openly and honourably would harm the effectiveness of our military," said
Meehan, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and a leading critic
of the military's gay ban. "The Iraq war demonstrates that the morale and cohesion
of our forces is simply not affected by the presence of openly gay soldiers."
According to Aaron Belkin, CSSMM's director, twenty-three other nations besides
Britain allow gays to serve openly. CSSMM has published extensive studies on
four of them: Britain, Israel, Australia and Canada. Researchers concluded that
lifting the gay ban had no significant impact on combat capabilities. "The fact
that U.S. troops fought successfully right next to British service members who
are openly gay and lesbian shows that lifting a gay ban does not undermine
military performance," he said.
More information can be found at the CSSMM