By Don Branum
Air Force Academy Public Affairs
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS) — Two professors with the Behavioral Sciences and Leadership Department here contributed to a study released by the Palm Center Sept. 20 that reaffirmed findings in the Defense Department’s 2010 comprehensive working review group prior to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
Col. Gary Packard Jr., the Behavioral Sciences and Leadership Department head, and Dr. Steven Samuels, a professor in the same department, are two of four service academy instructors who contributed to the study, which found that repealing DADT had no effect on recruiting, retention or readiness.
What’s notable about the paper, Samuels said, is that “it’s been described as 40 single-spaced pages of ‘nothing happened.’”
While no significant changes in military readiness occurred – as studies have predicted for nearly 20 years since the Rand Corporation study in 1993 – the available data soundly disproves statements by retired flag officers that repeal would “undermine recruiting and retention ... and eventually break the all-volunteer force.”
“I think this paper, more than anything else, is a vindication for why we value science over simple opinion,” Samuels said.
The study acknowledges that some people’s morale dropped because they don’t agree with the change but notes that the positive effect on morale of gay, lesbian and bisexual service members balanced it out.
“The bottom line is, when you look at the key attributes – can we do our job, can we fight the nation’s wars, will it affect the readiness of the United States military – we predicted the answer would be no,” Packard said. “And the data at least one year out suggests that the answer is that this does not affect the key factors of the military’s ability to do its job.”
The environment at the Academy didn’t significantly change after DADT was repealed, Samuels said.
“I don’t think anyone’s noticed anything,” he said. “There was a pride flag on Sept. 20 last year that appeared on the Ring Wall, and I haven’t heard anything else.”
“The anniversary came and went,” Packard added. “Not a peep.”
One reason for that might be that cadets don’t see it as a big deal.
“I wouldn’t say nobody cares, but it’s a fairly small minority,” Packard said.
He said the most memorable response from a cadet was, “Well, some people’s Facebook statuses have changed, and that’s about it.”
Dr. Dave Levy, a professor with the Management Department, also contributed to the study. Levy recalled talking to cadets in a class for Rhodes and Marshall scholar applicants about DADT before the repeal last year.
“A kid raises his hand and says, ‘Sir, no offense, but why are you here?’ And I said, ‘None taken. I’m here to talk about DADT. Isn’t it a significant issue?’” he said.
The cadet replied that no one cared because they all knew gay and lesbian cadets were already here.
“It wasn’t just one cadet,” Levy said. “There was a whole lot of agreement, and the big issue was, why are we making a non-issue an issue? The issue was that DADT existed when the culture had actually changed already, and I think it took us a while to recognize that the culture moved without us.”
However, that’s not to say there’s no conflict at all or that there won’t be in the future, Packard said.
“It’s naïve to think we’re not going to have incidents,” he said. “But we’ve had incidents based on race since we’ve integrated racially; we’ve had incidents based on gender since we’ve integrated women more fully into the force.
“We still ... have people who are really struggling with this issues, who don’t agree with it, and that’s fine,” he continued. “The resolution of this is not to change everyone’s mind to work the same way. The resolution of this is, how do you professionally deal with these incredibly difficult differences of opinion and do it in a proper way?”
For the Defense Department, the answer was to get commanders in front of the policy change.
“What really matters from a military leadership perspective is ... you ought to see me as the commander supporting the policies and the laws of the land in accordance with my oath of office and really not have a good perspective on where I stand on this issue personally,” Packard said. “I might talk personally to my commander when I disagree with the policy, but when I’m out in public, I’m a servant of this nation, and I follow the laws of this land.”
That’s what Packard witnessed while deployed as the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing’s director of staff when the training rolled out.
“I went to probably greater than 80 percent of the individual commanders’ briefings,” Packard said. “I can tell you without exception, every commander stood up and delivered the (repeal) message correctly. I can tell you from talking to them personally, not all of them agreed with the change.”
The emphasis on professional leadership is a sharp contrast from the climate when women entered the Air Force Academy, Packard said.
“When I was a four-degree, the class of ‘79, the last all-male class, were seniors. So I got to see that transition firsthand, and that was an openly debated topic in classrooms,” he said. “Faculty members were not shy about telling you their opinions about whether or not women should be here, pro and con.”
“Not all commanders were on board. You heard commanders saying, ‘Come on, we’ve got to do this. It’s a dumb idea, but you know we’ve got to do this,’ which is why it was so brutal for (women in) those early classes,” Samuels added.
“Much different leadership message than what we got last year,” Packard said.
Opponents of the repeal have said it’s too early to tell what the repeal’s full effect will be, but Samuels disagreed.
“We know from behavioral science that most of your problems come when they’re proximal, not when they’re distal – that is, most of the problems come immediately, not in the distant future,” he said. “You had more racial problems when desegregation happened immediately, not afterwards. So to say that things are going to become worse over time ... doesn’t hit reality at any two contiguous points.”
Packard holds a Doctorate in Developmental Psychology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Samuels has a PhD in psychology from Stanford University. Levy, a 1988 Academy graduate, has a PhD in organizational behavior from Webster University.