Today America swore in its 44th Commander-in-Chief (actually, its 43rd, which you might've annoyingly pointed out to someone today if you paid attention in History class when they covered those late-19th century Presidents that all seemed to wind up in relative obscurity).
But anyway, it's hard to say what this change will mean for the proverbial boots on the ground. In the short term, though, that answer is clear -- nothing. As for long-term commitments in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Horn of Africa, and the Balkans, however, that all remains to be seen.
One major military policy change that's likely to come about during this Presidency, however, is the repeal of the 15 year-old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy implemented soon after President Clinton took office.
When this happens (and I say when, not if, based on statements that have come directly from high-level Obama staffers), you will hear lots of vocal, strident cries from small groups of die-hards who will threaten not to re-enlist, or to resign their commissions, or to working towards Obama's defeat in 2012, or whatever other thing they'll vow to do in their moment of righteous anger.
Well, if you're curious, here's the reaction of one servicemember with another couple decades, a few promotions, and several deployments left in the tank -- I really don't care whether someone who wants to serve is straight, gay, or lesbian.
First of all, anyone who doesn't already know that there are plenty of homosexual service members already in uniform either isn't in the military or isn't paying attention. Based on my experience so far -- at OCS, advanced training, at Little Creek, in Groton, and a few times the world over in between, for the most part, no one really seems too hung up about it (that's only my first-hand observation, though...I know the many who've been dishonorably discharged might feel very differently).
Second of all, assuming other already-established codes within the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) are respected, the presence of homosexuals in the ranks doesn't really *threaten* good order and discipline any more than the threat of heterosexuality already does. Trust me, I could tell you enough love triangle stories about deployments (both observed and heard second-hand) to bore you. So I won't.
When I think personally about the challenges I'm going to face in the next few years, I will admit that sometimes I worry about things:
I worry about how I'm going to perform in Land Navigation (let's just say I came in dead last during the last major land nav evolution I did, and wouldn't have even made it that far if the bus hadn't swung around to the other side of Fort Story).
I worry about swimming (I was once so far behind on an open-ocean swim that after just deciding to say 'screw it' and run in the hard sand I still finished behind a few of the swim-only folks).
I worry about tons of other things. I worry about tactical performance, I worry about lingo (how many times can you call the 'latrine' the 'head' and get away with it?), I worry about regulations, leadership styles, and which shoulder to wear which patch on the ACUs. I worry about whether I'll be able to keep my feet and legs together after hurtling toward the ground from a perfectly good C-130.
And that's not even deployment.
Overseas, a host of other concerns might pop up -- urban rioting, what pieces of trash and dead animals in the road might conceal, and about whether standing in one spot for too long might allow someone to draw a bead. That's on top of trying to get the Dari verb endings straight and remembering not to expose the soles of my boots when sitting in a meeting with my legs crossed.
And all of those worries come without even mentioning the worries about the people who really matter, including one person in particular who might be spending a lot of time, well, worrying.
Nowhere on that list of worries is a concern about whether anyone in my platoon, company, battalion, or brigade might be gay or lesbian.
That just doesn't factor in there for me.
I just don't care. To me, whether you're gay or straight says about as much for your job performance as whether you're rooting for the Cardinals or the Steelers in the Super Bowl -- in other words, nothing.
When the ban finally does get lifted, I might take a second to stop and recognize how a historical wrong has been corrected, and how difficult things must have been for those who've been dishonorably discharged for an identity that I don't believe they chose.
But then it's back to work. There's too much else on my plate.