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Aubrey Sarvis Headshot

Three Generals Put New Twist on March Madness

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I know it's March Madness but really, what were Generals Sheehan, Mixon, and Conway thinking when they shot an air ball that went flying out of bounds. If the generals want to make the team, they might want to ask their Commander in Chief for a lesson or two.

One likely possibility is that the generals weren't thinking at all. That's a pretty alarming possibility when one considers that they have been or are commanders of men and women. Even freshly minted second lieutenants know about the chain of command, about following orders, about who gives the orders, and who's their Commander in Chief. They teach that at West Point and Annapolis. They taught it at Fort Jackson, S.C., where I underwent my basic and advanced infantry training. They teach it in high school civics classes.

Over the last month all three of these presumably seasoned generals loaded with enough silver stars to start their own constellation forgot what every service member learns in basic training.

First it was retired Marine General John J. Sheehan testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee March 18 suggesting the Dutch military had gone berserk and made possible the massacre at Srebrenika because of all those gays in the barracks. Watch his testimony here. They were a distraction or something, so nobody noticed all those bodies being tossed into trenches. Their streets may look clean, even the windows, but deep down the Netherlands is capital D Decadent. The incontrovertible proof is that they welcome gays and lesbians into their military.

So don't say General Sheehan didn't warn you, Senators. Let them in and they'll bring down the neighborhood faster than you can say "March Madness." The same is sure to happen here if the Senate repeals "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

That nonsense was news to a lot of people including the Dutch, who are still steaming. The general's facts were, umm, more factoid than factual. They wouldn't have passed a fact checker at the New Yorker, that's for sure. But he's pretty good at laying his prejudices on the table. An incredulous Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, pointed out there was no evidence whatsoever, on or off the record, to support the former NATO Commander's assertions.

Another general to leave the bench and run to the court to miss the ball was active duty Army Lieutenant General Benjamin Mixon, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Pacific. In a March 8 letter to Stars and Stripes he described the doomsday vision he saw on the horizon should Congress repeal DADT. General Mixon could have been reading from Elaine Donnelly's apocalyptic script.

I wonder why the general thought Stars and Stripes was the proper forum to lobby Congress and men and women in uniform. Even more, I wonder why the active-duty general thought it would be cool to lobby Congress on issues being debated within the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. Lobbying isn't in his job description. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur found that out when he pulled a similar stunt and President Truman fired him.

The third general caught up in near fatal March Madness (something like swine flu but affecting mostly the head) is none other than the Commandant of the Marine Corps James G. Conway, who told his Marines and Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen, as well as his Commander in Chief that if Congress and the President were to be so foolish as to repeal DADT and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly, then his straight macho Marines would require separate barracks from the gay Marines.

Retired Army Brigadier General John Adams got to the nub of it: "General Conway's comments undermine the ongoing DoD review process on how to implement the repeal of DADT. As Commandant, he is charged with ensuring that the United States Marine Corps portion of that review is thorough, focused, and professional. Unfortunately, his comments prejudice the outcome of the review. His remarks--and perhaps most disturbing, his demeanor--in his March 25 interview with Military.com indicate that he is not only resistant to the possibility of change, but petulant. Marines deserve better from their Commandant."

Now I understand General Conway is slated for retirement later in the year, but in light of his challenge to those above him in the chain of command does anyone seriously think he can or should last until Thanksgiving? Just substitute "African American" where General Conway uses "homosexual" and "gay" and one sees not only how outrageous his statements are but how out of touch the man is.

Thankfully, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen are taking the repeal of DADT very seriously. They understand and enforce the chain of command. They know the separate roles civilians and generals play in our political process. Admiral Mullen, referring to General Mixon, said, ""If there's a policy direction that someone in uniform disagrees with ... the answer is not advocacy, it is in fact to vote with your feet." I wonder if General Conway heard that.

Retired Army Major General Dennis Laich suggested today that "perhaps General Conway should ask a fourth question in his town hall meetings: 'Do young Marines want to be led by a bigot who allows his personal biases to override his professional obligations?'"

It's time for these Generals to get over March Madness and start playing "Follow the Leader." First they'd have to learn who the leader is.