Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was in Herndon, Virginia, on Monday, speaking before a room full of war heroes and distinguished military guests. He’d come to discuss national security — including cybersecurity — before members of the Retired American Warriors PAC, but when it came time for the town hall–style discussion, the veterans were very specific in what they wanted to discuss with the possible future president.
Former Commandant of the U.S. Army Adjutant General School, Col. Don Bartholomew, expressed deep concerns about the social engineering and political correctness that has been imposed upon the military during the Obama administration. He worries that the warrior ethos, which previously helped make this country’s military so successful, is being damaged in the name of political correctness.
“Under this administration, that ethos has been under attack and in some cases, undermined, by the forces of political correctness. The military has become an institution for social experiments and as a result the military has undergone a number of changes to regulations with regard to women in combat, transgender rights and other issues. None of these politically correct actions were combat effective or readiness driven. In fact, the opposite is happening. Deployability, readiness and morale are all adversely affected,” he said as part of his statement to Trump.
Trump’s reply was simple. He wants to go back to a “little more old-fashioned method of thinking” when it comes to political correctness in the military. Challenging PC culture in the military has become a hallmark of his campaign, and his disdain for all things PC has mobilized millions of Americans.
He has promised to use prudence and rational thought when making decisions in regard to the military. Right now, he sees practicality and levelheadedness being replaced with victimhood mentalities and social engineering.
Instead of letting politicians make decisions that affect military policy, as Obama has done, Trump promises to leave policy-making to “the generals, the admirals, the people on top” as well as to some of the “top enlisted people.”
“We’re going to get away from political correctness,” he said as the crowd broke into applause. He continued, telling the audience that some of what the government is requiring from the military in terms of political correctness is simply “ridiculous.”
In a recent press release, U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, echoed the apprehensiveness Trump and military personnel have expressed. “This administration’s focus should be on ensuring our military has the necessary tools and resources it needs to defeat our enemies and keep Americans safe — not liberal social engineering that only harms our already neglected military.”
Trump, along with many other Republicans, feels that there is a huge divide between the operational needs of the military and the political and ideological agenda that the Obama administration has been pushing.
“The military exists to defend the country. It is there to have certain qualities that are unlike the civilian world: honor, courage, commitment, certainly integrity and honesty. You cannot ask military leaders to deny reality and teach their subordinates to deny reality without having consequences, especially when dealing with an issue of sexual privacy,” said Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, in speaking about the military’s new transgender acceptance policy.
Donnelly thinks focusing on a “tiny, tiny minority” at the expense of the majority of those in the military is irresponsible. She believes it will promote sexual tension and a lack of discipline.
Many echo the same misgivings when it comes to women in combat, which Trump is also against.
A 2015 RAND Corp. report regarding the future role of women in Special Operations Forces, found that “opposition to opening SOF specialties to women is both deep and wide, with high levels of opposition across all SOF elements. This opposition is also deep-seated and intensely felt.”
The biggest concerns about integrating SOF were that women were physically or otherwise incapable of meeting the demands of the SOF specialties; that unit trust and cohesion would suffer if women were permitted; and that performance standards would be lowered so women could qualify.
Thus far, none of the over 30 female Marine officers who have attempted the Infantry Officer Course have passed. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus assured Marines that the standards will not be lowered to accommodate females.
At the Herndon event, Trump also spoke about the importance of protecting religious liberties within the military, after retired Col. Ron Crews, a steering committee member of the Chaplains Alliance for Military Religious Liberty, asked about attacks on religious freedoms in the military.
Crews mentioned several recent incidents including a ranger being reprimanded for using scripture while mentoring a suicide prevention class; a sergeant being forcefully removed from a retirement ceremony for intending to use the word “God” during a speech at the ceremony; and a lance corporal being court martialed, and convicted, for refusing to remove a scripture verse from her personal workspace.
Trump said he thought it was “very unfair” what was happening to religion in this country, especially in the military, and that the churches have “lost tremendous positive power” in recent years.
He has pledged to work to get the Johnson amendment (a portion of the U.S. tax code that prohibits religious groups from endorsing political candidates) overturned. When asked a question about military suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder, he also said that he believed it was necessary that all forms of counseling, including those faith-based programs focusing on “spiritual fitness and resiliency,” be made available to the troops.