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There is an old military adage that says the purpose of an army is to
“make noise, hurt people and break things.” My, how politically
incorrect such a notion must seem today to the legions of liberal
activists and feminists who are working double-time to destroy the
finest fighting force on the planet.
The most recent wounding of those trying to preserve traditional
military values comes from the Air Force and, in specific, from our
land-based nuclear missile forces.
The Washington Times reported in their July 14 issue that a young
Catholic officer, Air Force First Lt. Ryan C. Berry, received a
career-ending evaluation in April of this year, after he refused to
share a cramped underground ICBM launch facility with female officers.
According to the Times, Berry said his religious faith compels him to
“avoid even the appearance of sin” through temptation, which he claims
is impossible to do when sharing cramped living quarters with women for
24 hours at a time.
For a year and a half the Air Force accommodated Berry, who is
married, by scheduling him exclusively with male officers. But when a
female officer protested the arrangement, the Air Force brass reneged.
Then they did more than just renege.
They went on to punish the young lieutenant in a manner that
guarantees he will never be promoted — a dilemma that will effectively
end his military career by 2002. And by all measures, this officer does
not deserve this kind of treatment.
In April two peer Air Force evaluators said of Berry, “He is a highly
capable officer … cool performer under pressure … flawlessly handles
programs … keeps our mission on track. Heap it on him. He can handle
it. Talented officer. Boundless potential.”
In other words, he possesses every single attribute the Air
Force — and every reasonable American — should expect someone
entrusted with the custody of nuclear weapons to possess.
But after his peers submitted their evaluation, his unit commanding
officer, Col. Ronald Haeckel, a 22-year veteran, trashed him by adding
his own politically correct addendum to the otherwise glowing
Haeckel wrote, “I find your unwillingness to perform prescribed ICBM
alert duties with full qualified female officers as unprofessional. You
have failed to accept the personal responsibilities of an ICBM missile
combat crew member and that of an officer in the United States Air
Berry countered with the Air Force’s own motto: “Integrity first.”
And naturally he didn’t feel his, nor the Air Force’s, integrity was
best served by having him share close quarters with a woman. In the
context of his religious beliefs, he is right.
But his commanding officer’s commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Thomas H.
Neary, then added the coup de grace to Berry’s career by calling
his actions a “breach of duty” — one of the most serious charges any
officer could be saddled with. Ironically, Neary also claims to be a
Fortunately, not everyone agrees with the Air Force brass on this
Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, whose diocese is the U.S. armed
forces, supported Berry’s stance in a letter to Neary. So did Monsignor
William B. Smith, a prominent professor of moral theology at St.
Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y. He said, “It does seem to me that
such intensely proximate bed and bath facilities is closer to the
absolute occasion rather than a relative one. Such arrangements for 24
or 48 continuous hours seem to me to offend common sense even basic
Christian standards of scandal. …”
Berry says the Air Force is punishing him for his religious
convictions — convictions that, by the way, his superiors have never
called into question. I agree, but there is clearly more at work here.
There is an agenda at play. In Clinton’s military, commanders
interested in upward mobility must be seen as being on the “right side”
of the liberal feminist issue. Never mind if politically correct notions
of so-called “equality” come at the sacrifice of military readiness.
The “agenda” is all-important.
Common sense would dictate that the Air Force would work hard to
prevent any distractions among crews that are charged with
safeguarding and, if necessary, launching nuclear missiles. Apparently
Berry’s father, a former missileer himself and now a defense attaché
in Ukraine, referred the Times to his attorney for comment. The lawyer,
Henry Hamilton, hit the nail on the head when he spoke about the
Hamilton said, “What you have here is a clash between the feminist
ideology and Catholic theology. The armed forces have again opted to
come down on the side of the feminists and against traditional
morality.” He went on to point out that the Army permits soldiers to
practice witchcraft at Ft. Hood, Texas, and other bases, adding “the
military can accommodate whatever they want to accommodate. This is …
an easy thing to do.” Indeed — so easy, in fact, that Berry was
Haeckel told the Times that Berry’s stand “adversely impacted good
order, discipline and morale of both male and female ICBM operators.”
But that’s hypocritical because there was no stink until Berry’s
commanding officers allowed one to be made. What would have been wrong
with ordering those who were complaining to pipe down or ship out
because Berry had every right to have his religious convictions honored
— especially since the Air Force had found a way for him to serve
without offending his conscience or endangering the base’s mission?
Because of this, the military is going to lose yet another of its
finest serving military officers. And believe me, we can’t afford it.