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A generation gap on ‘don’t ask’ policy

NASHVILLE — If you want to know what a member of the military thinks about repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,’’ you could start by asking how old they are.

Generational differences appear to play a big role in how soldiers, Air Force personnel, Marines, and sailors feel about repealing the policy that has barred gays from serving openly since 1993 but faces a possible court-ordered end. Age may also influence how a change is implemented, if the courts or Congress ultimately lift the ban.

“Younger soldiers wouldn’t have a problem with it, but older soldiers are the ones that enforce Army regulations,’’ noted Jason Ashley, 43, a former Army first sergeant who served with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, which is based at Fort Campbell, Ky.

There is no comprehensive survey of military-wide views of gays in the ranks — yet. The Pentagon is set to release a study of the issue in December after questioning 400,000 service members and 150,000 relatives, an effort that was ordered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to determine how to repeal the policy without hurting the military.

Officials familiar with its findings said the survey found most U.S. troops and their families don’t care whether gays serve openly and think “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ could be done away with. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the results of the survey have not been released.

Details on the findings were still scarce. But in conversations with troops and veterans, the idea repeatedly emerges that younger recruits, who make up the bulk of combat troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, are indifferent while older ones, including many officers, don’t want the ban lifted. 

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