Army begins transgender sensitivity training amid Pentagon’s trans-policy pause

A solider poses with a rainbow cake when the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden held their first Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month observance at the Tony Bass Auditorium on Clay Kaserne, Wiesbaden, Germany on 16 June 2016. (U.S. Army Video by Visual Information Specialist Dee Crawford/Released)

Progress is underway for the Army as it begins compulsory transgender sensitivity training for soldiers and civilians as the Pentagon debates instituting policies to accept transgender troops.

The Army launched training Tuesday — compulsory for all officers, non-commissioned officers and civilians who work alongside soldiers — to help them implement military policy on transgender troops and to “assist soldiers who have a medical diagnosis indicating gender transition is medically necessary through the gender-transition process,” according to USA Today.

The training sessions, USA Today reports, spring from former Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s 2016 decision to rescind the military’s ban against transgender troops. Carter’s move allows transgender troops in uniform to continue to serve, but allowed the services one year to implement policies for recruiting enlisted troops and commissioning officers who are transgender.

The training is designed to address multiple areas of interest.

“The training module specifically outlines key roles and responsibilities of commanders, transgender soldiers, military medical providers and administrative management organizations,” Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, an Army spokeswoman said in email to USA Today. “This training is mandatory for all uniformed members, as well as Department of the Army civilians.”

As services work to meet Carter’s July 1 deadline for establishing recruitment policies, USA Today reports the Army and Marine Corps are asking the Pentagon for delays in accepting transgender troops.

The Army now says it needs two more years, and the Marines one year to analyze the impact of accepting them and concerns about their availability to deploy while receiving medical treatment.

Their delay request came following a May 31 memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work to the services calling for an update on their plans for accepting transgender troops. According to USA Today, Work instructed leaders of the armed services that Pentagon leadership didn’t intend to reconsider the Obama administration-era policies unless they could “cause readiness problems and lessen our ability to fight, survive and win on the battlefield.”

The lack of a policy expected from the Pentagon has already caused problems for the services.

In June, graduates from the Air Force and Army’s academies could not be commissioned as new officers because the services had not set standards for their acceptance.

According to a 2016 study by the non-profit RAND Corp, there are an estimated 6,000-transgender troops among the Pentagon’s 1.3 million-member active-duty force reports USA Today. Researchers from RAND conclude that incorporating transgender troops into the ranks would have a negligible impact on the military’s readiness to fight.

As training continues and people await the Pentagon’s final decision, some are calling for the services to immediately lift the transgender ban for new enlisted recruits and officers.

“All research, including the military’s own research, the RAND report, and studies of foreign militaries, confirms again and again that inclusiveness promotes readiness,” Aaron Belkin, executive of the Palm Center, a nonprofit group that advocates for transgender troops, tells USA Today. “But social conservatives don’t care, and they’re trying to hoodwink the public into believing that there’s a decision to be made, that policy hasn’t been established and that there’s a problem. But there is no problem. Transgender troops have been serving loyally for a year. All policies and guidelines have already been completed, and the military has been training for a year. Nothing else ​needs to be done to lift the ban aside from simply lifting the ban.”

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  • Jim Verchio is a staff writer for Popular Military. As a retired Air Force Public Affairs craftsman, Jim has served at all levels. From staff writer to Editor-In-Chief, he has more than 30 years experience covering military topics in print and broadcast from the CONUS to Afghanistan. He is also a two time recipient of the DoD’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for journalism excellence.

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