Pentagon: DADT training to start in February

WASHINGTON (RNN) - Department of Defense officials said new training procedures in advance of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" being removed from military policy will likely begin in February.

However, no date for the full implementation of the repeal was given, saying only the department would move "quickly" and "expeditiously" toward a 2011 target date. Under Secretary of Defense Clifford Stanley said the DOD believes it can be accomplished within the year.

"The implementation of the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' is a milestone event for the Department," said Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates in an internal memo released Friday to the Raycom News Network.

Each branch of the service will take its own approach to training, said Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"What we did not tell them is how to try and do their business," Cartwright said.

There are three tiers of training within the military ranks: experts, commanders/leaders and the force. Training for each tier, however, does not have to happen individually and can occur at the same time, Cartwright said.

Training will include videos, Power Point presentations and vignettes used to spur conversation.

Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will then sign off on repeal at a time when they believe they "have the bulk of the force" ready.

From that point, a waiting period of 60 days will pass before the policy becomes law.

"Certification by the [Gates and Mullen] does not require 100 percent of the units to be trained," Cartwright said.

Service members who are in the Guard or who are in the Reserves will be harder to train. Those who are deployed overseas and in the field may not be trained on the new procedures until they return home.

At a certain point, the Defense Department will have a handle on how long the whole process will take, Cartwright said.

There will be few changes in military policy, he said.

"Not a lot of changes in the policy, but there definitely needs to be some policy clarification," Stanley said.

Cartwright said the military already has strict behavior and conduct standards, which have held up under review.

Another reason for the delay in the policy's total repeal is because the military falls under federal law, which is governed by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. The law supersedes any state laws which might grant spousal rights to gay couples.

However, officials said partner benefits may fall into a "gray area."

When asked if guidelines would be issued for chaplains, Stanley said there would be no new policy guidelines for them, as they serve their own faith groups.

Stanley said gay troops may still be discharged before the policy is adopted as law and that there are no plans for a moratorium to stop this process.

"It is still possible for a person to be discharges under the existing law," he said. "I've heard nothing about a moratorium."

Stanley said the Department of Defense is obligated to follow the law and to do otherwise would be inappropriate, adding that all service members would be treated fairly under the "basic, standard military discipline."

For example, a release issued by Stanley says, "The creation of separate bathroom facilities or living quarters based on sexual orientation is prohibited, and Commanders may not establish practices that physically segregate service members according to sexual orientation."

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