February 5, 2011
A Colorado congressman on the Air Force Academy’s advisory board on Saturday urged the academy’s superintendent to create a welcoming atmosphere for openly gay and lesbian cadets.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who is gay, said the academy should encourage “inclusion” in the wake of the Nov. 30 repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that barred service by people who are openly gay.
The Boulder Democrat suggested the academy should consider hiring gay and lesbian chaplains and said cadets should be welcome to bring “the date of their choice” to Air Force Academy balls and other social functions.
“It’s more than tolerance and respect,” Polis said at the Board of Visitors meeting at the academy.
“It’s really being able to, from a military perspective, be stronger through the diversity that we have in our force.”
The 15-member board makes recommendations regarding the morale, discipline, curriculum, instruction and other matters at the academy. It gives semiannual reports to the academy and Pentagon.
The board’s two-day meeting began in Colorado Springs on Friday.
The discussion on gay cadets came as the Pentagon prepares to open the ranks to homosexuals following the congressional repeal of policies banning gays and court-decisions that mandate the change.
The Defense Department halted all separations of gay and lesbian soldiers after the repeal was signed but continues to study how to implement the new law. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the process should be complete by 2012.
Polis’ comments came as the board turned its focus on how the new policy will affect the Air Force Academy.
Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, the academy’s superintendent, the academy has “prepared heavily” in how to follow the new law. He said the academy, like other military organizations, is still waiting for the Defense Department’s instructions on how to train and educate military leaders in the new policy.
“We are ready, we just don’t have the green light because the DOD and the Air Force haven’t issued all the data,” he said.
He said he had a “frank discussion” with cadets and academy airmen during a Jan. 27 address in which he emphasized the policy would be implemented with “strict behavioral standards.”
“If people cross that line, on either side, there will be disciplinary consequences to go along with it,” he said.
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