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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Appendix 2: Logistics from a Soldier's POV

I did not write this. It was given to me by a friend of mine who wished to remain anonymous. - Erin Palette

I have occupied leadership positions in the Army from Team Leader, to Squad Leader, to Platoon Sergeant, to Platoon Leader, to Company Commander. I have dealt with every issue, and the biggest that leadership at every level in the military deals with is deployability. If a soldier cannot deploy, they are dead weight until they can. If they are occupying a slot and don't go with the unit, everyone else has to pull their weight. The why doesn't matter: a soldier with pending legal issues in the courts in non-deployable; a soldier who is a single parent who doesn't have a valid Family Care Plan with people on record who will care for their children when deployed is non-deployable; a soldier with certain medical issues that require medical care or continued medications not typically available in the deployed environment is non-deployable. 

This last one will affect the deployability of most trans service members if they are on any kind of hormone regimen that requires a specific dose tailored to them, or any kind of monitoring, or any other medical treatment unique to being trans that will simply not be available in a deployed situation. And while the military may be capable of jumping through a lot of hoops to provide all this while deployed, the effort and cost simply isn't worth the payoff to gain only a few more people downrange, and so it has to come down to the math and the logistics. 

This calculation is not unique to someone on hormones, but is the same for every medical condition and need. A good analogy is sleep apnea: a soldier diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed a CPAP is non-deployable because they must have a CPAP, and that CPAP must have a dependable source of electric power. Now, the military could develop deployable CPAP machines, and make sure spares are available to replace them rapidly when broken, and field some sort of battery backup power system to keep them in power and make sure it travels with them... but the juice isn't worth the squeeze. You will spend more to set up accommodations, with more strain on the system and expense managing it, for not enough return in adding capability to the unit's ability to accomplish the mission.

As a Commander, I had people who were great soldiers and great people and even friends, and I still had to send them to med boards and have medically separated because that was what was best for the service. You can't be emotional about it, you can't be political about it; in the end, every decision on military manpower should boil down to one question - "Is this decision the best, most effective course of action toward making the military more efficient at accomplishing its mission?" - and nothing else. It doesn't matter what the issue is, that is the only question that matters and "fairness" is not involved, because when you deviate from that you are literally a less effective military, and being less effective at warfighting means more dead troops when that less effective force has to fight.

Now some people will say, "Let transgender people serve in non-deploying positions." While it is true there are some positions and units that do not deploy, getting assigned to one of those billets is seen as a respite and a few years of stability for service members and their families. After 6 years in deploying units and multiple rotations, an assignment as a recruiter or instructor gives them a 2-3 window of relief and stability. Keeping non-deployable troops in and assigning them just those positions robs the rest of chances at those positions and increases the time they spend in deployable slots. In fact, Sergeant Major of The Army Dan Dailey - the top enlisted soldier in the entire US Army - has repeatedly identified non-deployable soldiers as the biggest problem the Army faces and has pushed plans to faster separate them from the service.

However, that doesn't mean they can't be a part of the total effort. There are other ample opportunities for service as a civilian employee of the Department of Defense, where you can have a positive impact and contribute in very meaningful ways. If you talk to the civilians working on any military installation, you will find a high percentage are people who were either rejected from military service for medical reasons and still wanted to be a part of it, or former service members medically separated who still wanted to contribute. So there are ample opportunities for people otherwise not medically capable of meeting the requirements for uniformed service to still serve.

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