Army Kicks Out More Gays Than Fat Soldiers

Department of the Army/<a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7d/Dontaskdonttellcredible.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>

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As Congress prepares—again—to debate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Mother Jones has unearthed data showing the Army in recent years has been tougher on purging gays from the ranks than soldiers who are physically unfit for duty.

Earlier today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates released a military study showing that repeal of the services’ ban on gays wouldn’t adversely affect force readiness. But the Army’s recent discharge statistics (.xls), given to MoJo by a government source, suggest that the service has been far more concerned about its soldiers’ sexual orientation than their waistlines, muscular endurance, or cardiovascular ability. In fiscal 2007 and 2008, the Army brass threw out 592 enlisted members for violating DADT—more soldiers than it ejected for excessive body fat or fitness-test failures combined. (See info box below.)

Those were lean recruiting years for the Army, with wartime manpower requirements at an all-time high. The service’s response was to ease its fitness standards and make it harder for commanders to discharge overweight or underperforming soldiers. “In ’08-09 it was so bad that I had a warrant officer who demanded we get him XXXL flight uniforms,” one active Army officer tells Mother Jones. “He couldn’t wear the new [camouflage] pattern ones because they didn’t make them for a guy who was 313 lbs.” The officer added, “Some people really are too big to fail, I guess.”

But the Army didn’t appear interested in extending gays and lesbians the same latitude. While fitness-related discharges routinely outnumbered homosexuality discharges by 18 to 1 in the early ’90s, the numbers are far closer today. Yet separations of LGBT soldiers have remained relatively steady around 300 a year—until this year, when Gates began to ease enforcement of the DADT rule. In fact, except for one year (fiscal 2004), gay discharges have always outnumbered discharges for soldiers who fail the Army’s physical fitness test—a two-mile run, pushups, and sit-ups.

Under Gates’ leadership, the military now appears eager to allow gays to serve openly, inviting a new core of recruits into the ranks. “The findings suggest that for large segments of the military, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, though potentially disruptive in the short term, would not be the wrenching, traumatic change that many have feared and predicted,” he told reporters today.

Yet opponents of the DADT repeal continue to insist that allowing homosexuals to serve will harm defense readiness and unit cohesion. “If military bases and military schools become focal points for advancement of the gay agenda, we can expect serious repercussions among the families of the volunteers who make up our armed forces,” the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins wrote in an op-ed Monday.

His editorial never addressed the advancement of a fat agenda in the military.
 

Army Discharge Statistics, 2004-2009
Reason FY05 FY06 FY07 FY08 FY09
Homosexual conduct 387 282 301 291 193
Body fat standards 840 589 112 174 247
Physical fitness test failure 221 57 66 87 188

Source: Chief of Army Demographics Office

For a complete Excel spreadsheet of Army discharge data from FY 1983 to today, click here.

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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