Then lower your standards.  Or, in the case of some recently revised DoD (that’s Department of Defense for the uninitiated) policies, completely remove them or make them waiverable so that you can freely express yourself and your religious affiliation.  According to a Stars and Stripes article from 23 January (that is how we are taught to write the date in the military) members of the military, regardless of service, may apply for certain waivers to exempt themselves from grooming or uniform standards in order to comply with religious requirements.

The Pentagon announced Wednesday that beards, turbans, religious body art and other previously off-limits manifestations of spiritual devotion can now be allowed throughout the military. The policy also OKs other religious practices not related to appearance.

Supposedly these accommodations are supposed to reflect “sincerely held beliefs” and should not affect the good order and discipline of the service or run contrary to mission success or “Only if it is determined that the needs of mission accomplishment outweigh the needs of the service member may the request be denied.”  This sounds all well and good on the surface, but like many other forced change there are a number of issues when regulations are changed by policy implicitly and vaguely rather than with explicit guidance.  This tends to lead to more outside input from organizations that pretend to be sincerely representative of oppressed service members like the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRRF) and its leader Mikey Weintstein (referenced in the article) and the Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty (CARL) who falls on the other end of the spectrum from MRRF.  Organizations like this have absolutely NO affiliation with the military,  outside of their carefully crafted and wittily acronymed names.  What they really do is push their own agendas by soliciting service members to go outside the chain of command in order to gain resolution for what they feel is wrong doing rather than using the processes that are in place.

I have three major issues with this decision.

1.  The main reason for it is that it was a requirement by Congress that was placed into the fiscal year 13 National Defense Authorization Act, or in layman’s terms, our budget.  So somewhere between shutting down the government for a few weeks due to gross incompetence and negligence, our esteemed electorate found the time to bend us over a pork barrel by tying defense funding to political correctness and then turn around a few weeks later and dick retirees out of a 1% Cost of Living increase to our retirement pay.  Well played asshats.  The 535 members of the cesspool that our government has become, who exhibit absolutely no responsibility, accountability, cohesion, effectiveness, or the ability to band together in order to accomplish anything, are able to determine what constitutes Good Order and Discipline in our military.

2.  Basic training and initial entry training are not meant to enhance or emphasize “free expression”.  In fact it is the exact opposite.  Starting in basic training you are to be stripped of individuality and treated equally, with no deference to who you are.  This promotes a STANDARD of sameness by which you can teach each and every service member the same.  That is one of the reasons it is called basic training.  Advanced Individual Training or AIT is not meant to teach you to be an individual.  It is meant to taught you the skill that you volunteered for and to teach you at the most basic of levels how your specialty fits into the greater war-fighting effort.  Not everyone gets to kill the adversary, some have to provide skills that work in tandem and cohesively with other skillsets to provide the best, most survivable of circumstances possible for the trigger pullers.  Despite inter-service and inter-unit rivalries, we are part of a team with a common strategic goal accomplished by achieving a series of tactical milestones.  As you progress through the ranks you become less of an automaton and are able to exert influence through a combination of authority, innovation and no shortage of experience and reputation.  At no time though are you ever an individual, even when working alone.

3.  While I recognize that there are differences between each and every soldier, there are males, females, different races, different religions, even different motivations for becoming a soldier, you are in fact, a soldier.  I have been a Non-Commissioned Officer for 17 years now and I have been in leadership positions for longer than that.  I have had soldiers of all the previous mentioned differences and I have never led or trained them any differently because of those differences.  I have had females soldiers that I forced to dig deep and perform buddy carries with the largest troop available.  I have had less than physically streamlined soldiers who I expected to carry their weight (literally, plus what equipment they carried on their backs) for as many miles and at the same pace as everyone else.  When I have led and trained soldiers I treated them all as 1 color and 1 sex, they were green and they were soldiers.  I have made accommodations for individual needs and requirements at times, that is part of the leadership challenge, but, when I have been unable to I made sure that those under my charge understood that it was not a matter of any type of prejudice or reservation on my part, it was contrary to being able to accomplish what we were charged with or it was contrary to good order and discipline.  I did this in person and in writing.

Over the coming weeks people will compare this to the repeal of DADT and how well that has worked since the repeal.  In my opinion this is nothing like DADT.  There have always been gay service members, they looked and still look just like everyone else.  They maintained a soldierly appearance and faithfully performed their duties as they volunteered to.  Very few soldiers were ever put out of the military while DADT was the rule of the land, most were simply put out for the same reasons as any other soldier who was unable to hack it.  When DADT was repealed, it was time.  There was not the outcry that many expected, nor has there been any real issues associated with allowing members to serve openly.  There has been somewhat of a learning curve for those whose religious beliefs run contrary to being gay, but, like all good leaders they have a doctrine to fall back on.  Most, not all but most, understand what it takes to lead and they do so justly regardless of their personal beliefs.

Accommodating appearance and dress standards due to religious requirements will not enhance good order and discipline and in my opinion is the first step in decreasing the effectiveness of the equality built in to regulations and the UCMJ.  Contrary to popular belief there were no special concessions to openly gay service members when DADT was repealed.  Openly gay service members were simply finally able to benefit from the same benefits as all others without fear of reprisal.  Religious tolerance, or even lack of religious belief, is a guarantee to service members. You simply have to practice your beliefs with the same standards as everyone else.

If you feel you have been unjustly persecuted because of your beliefs; been passed over for responsibility because you are not the same as someone else; been sexually assaulted; been a part of something that you feel goes against the Laws of Land Warfare; witnessed something that is wrong, legally, morally or ethically, then you have outlets to bring your grievance to.  You do not have to stop at the first level if you feel it is not being handled correctly either, you can continue to climb your way up until you get resolution.  That is resolution, not satisfaction.  The two are sometimes used interchangeably these days, but they are distinctly different.  One means that the issue has been handled, regardless of how it benefits you personally.  The other is for personal feeling.

The military is inclusive, even though at times it may feel differently.  Everyone has the opportunity for chances as everyone else, it is up to you to meet the expectation.  Changing regulation and policy to accommodate individual requirements is exclusive .  Exclusivity is contrary to good order and discipline which is the building block for a successful military.


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