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Marine commandant repeats his opposition to scrapping DADT

From Charley Keyes, CNN Senior Producer
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House votes to repeal 'don't ask'
  • Gen. James Amos became Marine Corps commandant in October
  • He opposes dropping during wartime the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays serving openly
  • "I don't want to lose any Marines to a distraction," Amos says

Washington (CNN) -- Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos is sticking to his guns in opposing gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, warning Tuesday that a change now in current policy could pose a deadly distraction on the Afghanistan battlefield.

"I don't want to lose any Marines to a distraction," Amos said in a roundtable discussion with journalists at the Pentagon.

"I don't want to have any Marines I'm visiting at Bethesda (Naval Hospital) with no legs as a result of any type of distraction. So that's where I come down on this." A recording of the Amos comments was provided to CNN by the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes.

Amos used even stronger language than when he testified last month before the Senate Armed Services Committee and spoke publicly elsewhere in opposition to the repeal of the policy known as "don't ask, don't tell." And in the waning days of the congressional session, a legislative change seems increasingly unlikely.

Amos said the main factor in his thinking was Marine responses to a Pentagon survey on how a policy change could potentially undermine unit cohesion in combat.

Lieberman: 'DADT' should go
House OKs 'don't ask' repeal

"This right now is very intense period of time for a pretty healthy slice of the United States Marine Corps. This is not training. This is not get on a ship and go to the Western Pacific," Amos said in his hour-long conversation. "This is what I call the real deal, and the forces that wear this uniform that are in the middle of what I call the real deal came back and told their commandant of the Marine Corps they have concerns. That's all I needed."

But Amos also told the Senate committee that he would be "comfortable with implementing repeal" when "our singular focus is no longer on combat operations or preparing units for combat."

Amos, who took over as commandant in October, said the Marines in Afghanistan faced the demands of intense firefights. "That is a unique experience. And when that happens there is no margin for distraction ... There's no margin for thinking about anything other than working as a cohesive unit"

And he said Marines, whether in a small fire team or squad, must function as a single "living cell" to survive the hard fighting in Afghanistan.

"When your life hangs on a line on the intuitive behavior of the young man, and this is predominately what we are talking about, a young man who sits to your right and your left, you don't want anything distracting them," Amos said. "So when I say they are like an amoeba it means they flow and they think alike. I mean that in the most positive sense. They live and breathe with one another to the point where they know precisely what the other is going to do. They don't have to ask. They don't say 'cover me.' They don't say do this, do that, it just happens."

He said Marines take pride in their "warrior ethos" and their differences from the other services. And he said that the Corps is undergoing a very intense period of combat. "So If they have concerns, I do, too. It is as simple as that."

As he has said in the past, Amos stressed that if the law is changed he will "get in step and move smartly" to implement the new policy.