By Andrea Stone -
WASHINGTON -- The Marine Corps commandant who once said openly gay service members would be a dangerous "distraction" and was among the most outspoken opponents of repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy said today he does not expect to lose troops over the change.
"I haven't had any indication yet at all, not at all," Gen. James Amos told reporters when asked if he expected the mass exodus of troops that Sen. John McCain and other critics predicted if the ban was lifted.
Amos was visiting troops in Afghanistan's Helmand Province when President Barack Obama signed the repeal in late December. He said he addressed some 12,000 Marines about the change and "everyone said, 'Sir, we got it. We're going to do this thing.'"
The about-face by the Marines' top general came before the ink was dried on the law and was underlined in a video Amos taped with the Corps' Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent last month. In it, he said the service "will step out smartly to faithfully implement this new law. It's important that we value the diversity of background, culture and skills that all Marines bring to the service of our nation."
A Pentagon survey of troops released in November before Congress approved the repeal revealed that of all the armed services, the Marines held the most negative views about lifting the ban. More than four out of 10 said serving with openly gay Marines would negatively affect their work; 58 percent of those in combat arms units voiced opposition.
"It would be naive to think that somewhere down the road there's not going to be issues," Amos told reporters. "I think there probably will be in probably all the services, but I don't think it's going to be of any magnitude that's going to cause much more than a blip. So I'm very optimistic."
Amos said training of military lawyers, counselors and chaplains began Feb. 7. He said he and the service's three-star generals and their spouses underwent a training session recently in , and he expects all leaders down to company commanders and platoon sergeants to have been briefed by the middle of next month.
The general said nearly every Marine, including those deployed in Afghanistan, will get a chance to walk through possible scenarios by early June, if not sooner.
The Air Force, Navy and Army also have begun training in preparation for the policy's demise sometime later this year.
Earlier this week, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said the military's largest service would need until mid-July to finish training the active duty force of 565,000 and until mid-August to brief the 567,000 Guard and Reserve members.