The Pentagon says it won’t be issuing a formal reprimand to an Army general who expressed defiance over President Obama’s plans to roll back DADT.
Army Secretary John McHugh told reporters that Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon will not be receiving a letter of reprimand or be forced to step down from his post.
Mixon, who commands U.S. Army Forces in the Pacific, had urged troops to openly support keeping the ban on openly gay service members in place.
Analysts say that Mixon’s comments were especially defiant. While the Joint Chiefs kept their sharpest criticism reserved for their Congressional testimony—they are required by law to give Congress their personal opinions when they are asked for them—the three-star general sent a letter unsolicited to the newspaper “Stars and Stripes,” with a call to action for his troops.
“Now is the time,” Mixon wrote, “to write your elected officials and chain of command and express your views. If those of us who are in favor of retaining the current policy do not speak up, there is no chance to retain the current policy.”
The general’s comments underscore the challenges Obama faces as he attempts to take the teeth out of the discriminatory policy. Pentagon officials say they want to garner opinions from troops in order to address their concerns.
Mixon was informed by Army Chief of Staff General George Casey that his remarks were inappropriate, and received a rare public rebuke from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Nullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who admonished Mixon for using his rank to challenge the President and to advocate a political position.
“The answer is not advocacy,” said Mullen. “It is, in fact, to vote with your feet.”
Locally, reaction from LGBT veterans echoed that of the Joint Chiefs chairman.
“As a former service member, I was taught that the Commander in Chief had the final say in military matters,” said Mark LaFontaine, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran and a national officer for American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER). “Whether you disagree with those orders is irrelevant.”
Todd Krough, an Air Force veteran, concurred.
“It seems to me that Mullen was in essence telling Mixon to ‘get with it’ or ‘get out’,” Krough mused. “What else would he mean by ‘vote with your feet’?”
Mixon is not the first member of the top brass to buck the President over his DADT plans. General James Conway, the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, said the policy is helping to keep discipline and order and that lifting the ban during a two-front war would be dispruptive.
In a separate interview with Military.com, Conway said he wouldn’t force Marines to share rooms on base with gay service members.
AVER’s LaFontaine is incredulous about Conway’s remarks.
“The military is not a democracy. There is no voting on whether to follow orders or to disobey them, and personal opinions are never encouraged, offered or expected. You do as you are told,” he insists.
“President Obama needs to remind his Joint Chiefs of that and ask that they enforce what is asked of them to do,” he added.
“If someone disobeys those orders then they should face the consequences of reprimand, or demotion or discharge from the military.”