(3-3) Maddow DADT: USAF Maj Mike Almy

DADT posts

March 3, 2010
Rachel Maddow Show

updated

Major Mike Almy relates how he was discharged from the USAF without having told or been asked. No one he worked with knew anything until his superiors looked through his “private” emails. Discharged at the height of the 2006 insurgency.

Maj Almy’s story in his own words (Mar 3)
Maj Almy on NPR (Feb 2)

TRANSCRIPT FOLLOWS

Transcript

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

McCain’s opening statement DADT hearing

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): My opinion is shaped by the view of the leaders of the military. The reason why I supported the policy to start with was because Gen. Colin Powell, who was then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff, is the one that strongly recommended we adopt this policy in the Clinton administration. I have not heard Gen. Powell or any of the other military leaders reverse their position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Colin Powell statementAdm Mullen, Sec Gates, Gen Petraeus

MADDOW: That was Sen. John McCain speaking this past summer, describing his position on “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.” A month ago, Gen. Powell did reverse his position. So that seems straightforward, right?

Sen. McCain had said he supported the policy in the first place because Colin Powell supported it. He was waiting to see if Colin Powell would change his mind about that. Then Colin Powell changed his mind and John McCain says he still likes “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.” He said on “Meet the Press” this weekend that the policy is working, which is the same argument that he and other proponents of the policy have been trying to make since it‘s been clear that the Obama administration is going to repeal this policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Has this policy been ideal? No, it has not. But it has been effective.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL): I think the rule of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” has seemed to work pretty well.

MCCAIN: It has helped to balance a potentially disruptive tension between the desires of a minority and the broader interests of our all volunteer force. It has sustained unit cohesion and unit morale.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Today, in the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman “you lie” Joe Wilson explained what proponents of keeping the anti-gay policy mean when they say that the policy is working.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOE WILSON (R-SC): During fiscal year 1999 through fiscal year 2008, eight of those years being wartime years, the military service separated more than 1.9 million people – 8,300 of those, less than one-half of one percent, were a result of Section 654.

That‘s about 800 people being discharged per year. And unless you contradict me, that is not a significant loss from an overall DOD manpower perspective.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Not a significant loss from a manpower perspective. The military is only losing 800 troops a year. That‘s, what, only one – what,

two or three service people a day. Two or three troops a day. Who cares, right?

Meet one of them. Former Air Force Major Mike Almy. He served the United States Air Force for 13 years, including four tours of duty in the Middle East.

It was during the height of the insurgency in Iraq in 2006 when the Air Force decided to spend its manpower searching through Maj. Almy‘s private E-mails to try to figure out if he might secretly be gay, even though he‘d never told anyone in the military ever about his sexual orientation, and he had therefore never violated the “don‘t tell” part of the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell Policy.”

At a press conference in favor of repealing the policy today, Maj. Almy described what happened next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. MIKE ALMY, FMR. UNITED STATES AIR FORCE COMMANDING OFFICER: I led those nearly 200 men and women into deployment into Iraq where my team came under daily mortar attacks as they were controlling the air space over Iraq. During this deployment, I was named one of the top officers in my career field for the entire Air Force. In Iraq during the height of the insurgency, the Air Force conducted a search of my private E-mails, solely to determine if I had violated “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” and to gather whatever evidence they could against me.

I was relieved of my duties, leaving nearly 200 airmen. My security clearance was suspended. Part of my pay was terminated and I was forced to endure a grueling 16-month legal ordeal before I was ultimately discharge from the Air Force. On my final day of active duty, I was given a police escort from the base as if I were a common criminal or threat to national security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Joining us now is Maj. Mike Almy who was on Capitol Hill today with a group of senators announcing new legislation to repeal “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.” Mr. Almy, thank you very much for your time today.

ALMY: Thank you for having me tonight, Rachel.

MADDOW: So you were discharged in 2006.

ALMY: Correct.

MADDOW: I know this is the first time you‘ve talked about it on television. Why have you decided to come forward in this way now and tell your story?

ALMY: For a variety of reasons. There‘s tremendous momentum that is going on right now, in the House as well as the Senate, and also the Pentagon and the administration. There‘s a great deal of movement right now and an impetus to finally get this ball rolling forward, partly through the Senate, the great staffers there, as well as in the House.

There‘s also several key organizations that have been working hard behind us, Service Members United, Service Members Legal Defense as well as the Human Rights Campaign. I know several of these people, and they know me, they knew my story and they had asked me to come forward at this time to tell it. So I said yes. I was more than happy to play whatever small part I could in this movement to finally end this discrimination.

MADDOW: The inertia that‘s pushing against that momentum has been voiced by people like Sen. John McCain and Congressman Joe Wilson, arguing that losing a few troops a day to this policy doesn‘t matter from a manpower standpoint, that “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is working. What‘s your reaction to that argument?

ALMY: I kind of scratch my head and just – I don‘t understand it. We‘ve recruited convicted felons and brought them into the military. We have brought in drug dealers, people who have made terroris threats.  [And convicted sex offenders] And yet we continue to turn away qualified capable men and women who will only want to serve their country. It astounds me the loss of manpower that we have thrown away in our country, thousands of people, as well as taking it personally. When they say that that number is acceptable, that is me that they‘re talking about.

MADDOW: Some people who want to keep the policy have argued specifically that it shouldn‘t be repealed now specifically because we are at war. That‘s part of the reason that your story is so incredible. You were relieved of duty while deployed in Iraq. Can you talk about the impact on the mission on the folks you were working with there of your getting fired?

ALMY: It had a tremendous impact after I was fired. I was working in an absolutely amazing squadron. The people there were just incredible. They were highly dedicated, highly trained. They worked very hard at getting the mission done and were very successful at that. We had strong unit cohesion, in other words.

After I was fired, it had a complete disruption to the unit, to the cohesion, to the mission. There was a lot of chaos, a lot of confusion. I was replaced by an officer who was very junior to me, and who, quite frankly, just wasn‘t adequately prepared for the job. And as a result, the mission suffered and so did the unit cohesion.

MADDOW: I know that you served 13 years before you were fired under this policy. You‘ve been in the private sector now for three years. If you could still serve, would you?

ALMY: Absolutely, I will be one of the first people, if not the first person, to go back in. And there‘s no greater desire than I have right now to go back into the Air Force as an officer and a leader. It‘s what I was born to do. It‘s what I was called to do. I come from a family with a strong military background, and I miss it tremendously.

MADDOW: Do you think that the military, the Defense Department needs nine months to study this?

ALMY: I don‘t, to be perfectly honest with you. I think they could shorten that quite a bit. I do believe that they need time to develop a strategy to deal with implementation, certainly, that they need a little time to prepare for that. Concurrently, Congress can go ahead and move this legislation forward as the Pentagon is studying how to deal with repeal. I‘m not sure that they need nine months, but we‘ll see.

MADDOW: In terms of the specific grounds on which you were discharged, one of the things we know about your case is you actually don‘t seem to have violated the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” policy. You didn‘t tell anybody you were gay. It was a bit of a witch hunt. They went through your E-mails for other reasons, found things they didn‘t like, and then decided to investigate you. Is it your understanding under the sort of interim softening of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” that Sec. Gates has proposed that under those rules now, you may not have been kicked out if that had happened today?

ALMY: That‘s what I understand. From the announcement that Sec. Gates made when he testified last month before Congress, when he wanted to get rid of the so-called third party outings, I believe it would have had a direct bearing upon my case. And in all likelihood, I would still be in active duty. I probably would have been promoted and certainly would have gone on to finish my successful career.

MADDOW: Maj. Mike Almy, discharged from the military because of the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” policy, thank you for speaking out and for joining us tonight, sir. I appreciate it.

ALMY: Thank you for having me tonight, Rachel.

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