Metro Weekly

Air Force Spokesman: “The Airman 1st Class made a statement that he was a homosexual.”

An Air Force spokesman told reporters that the April 29 discharge of an Airman under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — the first such discharge since heightened procedures for discharge were instituted in October 2010 — was based on a statement from the Airman that he was gay.

donley.jpgFollowing up on Metro Weekly‘s June 2 report that the Airman had been discharged and in response to requests from Metro Weekly and other outlets for additional information on the matter, Major Joel Harper, the spokesman, wrote, “In this instance, the Airman 1st Class made a statement that he was a homosexual.”

Harper detailed the facts of the discharge process that followed, noting, “After making the statement but prior to the commander initiating separation action, the Airman wrote the Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF) asking to be separated. After the separation action was initiated, the individual was informed of the current status of the repeal of ‘Don’t ask Don’t Tell,’ and he reaffirmed to the SecAF that he desired his separation action be expeditiously processed.”

At that point, according to Harper’s earlier statement to Metro Weekly, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley — after consulting with Defense Department general counsel Jeh Johnson and Understary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanely — approved the Airman’s discharge on April 29 under the October 2010 requirements for DADT discharge.

The Pentagon classifies DADT discharges as being based on a “statement,” “act” or “marriage,” as was seen when the military relased official figures in March regarding DADT discharges from Fiscal Year 2010.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network executive director Aubrey Sarvis said in a statement, “Though unfortunate, this discharge highlights the need for certification this month, and in fact, does nothing to diminish our concern that service members remain under investigation and are at risk of being discharged.”

Harper would not provide further information about the circumstances of the individual’s discharge, including the circumstances that led to the initial statement.

Despite that, Servicemembers United executive director Alex Nicholson said in a statement, “While the specific circumstances surrounding this airman’s decision to intentionally out himself or herself remain unclear, this appears to be a classic case of someone simply trying to use the fact that the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law is still technically on the books to get out of his or her service obligation.

He added, “The overwhelming majority of gay and lesbian servicemembers are serving, have served, or have tried to serve out their service obligations despite the unnecessary extra burden of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law. This is all the more reason that repeal should be certified before Secretary Gates departs, as is expected, so that this misguided chapter in our history is finally over.”

Certification by the president, defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the changes needed to implement repeal are “consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces” is required under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act — along with a subsequent 60-day congressional review period — by the DADT law, 10 U.S.C. 654 — is repealed.

Talking about SLDN’s caseload, Sarvis noted, “At SLDN, we have clients facing administrative board hearings right now. Some of these clients have 10 to 18 years of military service and are not looking to be separated under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ In fact, they are fighting these investigations and board proceedings today. It’s critical that certification happen in the month of June.”

[Photo: Donley]

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