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Friday, 15 November, 2002, 11:37 GMT
US army sacks gay Arabic experts
Participants in a gay rights march
The US military has a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy
The United States Army has forced six linguists trained to speak Arabic to quit after they admitted that they were gay.

The decision comes when American military and intelligence services are suffering from an acute lack of translators and interpreters needed for their war on terror.


It's not a gay-rights issue. I'm arguing military proficiency issues - they're throwing out good, quality people

Alastair Gamble, dismissed soldier
The US military has a policy on homosexuality among its personnel - known as "don't ask, don't tell" - whereby homosexuals are not barred from serving as long as their sexual orientation remains private.

Three other linguists, two specialising in Korean and one in Mandarin Chinese, were also dismissed - one for being gay and two for being caught together when they should have been in separate rooms.

Recruitment drive

All nine soldiers were at the Defence Language Institute in Monterey, the US military's foremost language training centre, Steve Ralls, spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group that defends gays in the military said.

World Trade Center debris
Since 11 September Arabic speakers have been in demand

In the wake of the 11 September terror attacks in Washington and New York the US Government has been frantically trying to recruit more Arabic speakers.

"We face a drastic shortage of linguists, and the direct impact of Arabic speakers is a particular problem," said Donald R Hamilton, who told Congress of the need for more linguists as part of the National Commission on Terrorism.

Security at risk

One of the soldiers who was dismissed argued that the US military's hard line over homosexuals was damaging national security.

"It's not a gay-rights issue. I'm arguing military proficiency issues - they're throwing out good, quality people," said Alastair Gamble.

Mr Gamble said he was discharged alongside fellow army specialist Robert Hicks after the two were caught in Mr Gamble's room after curfew, during a surprise inspection.

Mr Gamble said that, keen to use their language skills as part of the battle against terrorism, they both subsequently applied for federal jobs, but were rejected.

A spokesman for the Army Training and Doctrine Command in Virginia, Harvey Perritt, confirmed the number of dismissals and said that they took place between October 2001 and September 2002.

He added that this year of the 516 Arabic specialist enrolled for training at Monterey, 365 graduated.

See also:

18 Sep 00 | Americas
13 Jan 98 | In Depth
19 Nov 00 | Politics
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