Top Air Force Chief Appears to Undermine President Trump on Transgenders
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright — the highest ranking enlisted Airman in the Air Force — appeared to go off script at the recent Air Force Association Air, Space, & Cyber conference when answering a question about transgenders. The question (seen in the video at 56:50) was simple enough:
How can we best take care of our transgender Airmen at a time when their career in the Air Force is unpredictable?
At the beginning and end of his statement, Chief Wright’s response seemed consistent with current policy:
Right now, our transgender Airmen are still just that: They are our Airmen. And until otherwise, we take care of them just like any other Airmen…
So as long as they are in uniform and considered Airmen in our United States Air Force, we treat them with the same level of dignity and respect we would treat any other Airmen.
That’s fair, reasonable, and accurate. But in between those two sentences, the CMSAF appeared to venture into political territory at odds with his Commander-in-Chief:
I’d also like to answer that question like this…There was a time when I couldn’t serve in our United States Air Force. There was a time when my wife, who is retired, couldn’t serve in our United States Air Force, because we thought it would be “too disruptive”…
Chief Wright then seemed to catch himself and didn’t continue, reversing back to “So long as they’re Airmen…” It seems clear where he was going with that point, even though it was out of context to the question — which had nothing to do with anyone’s ability to serve. Chief Wright had digressed and seemed to be teeing up the argument that it is no more “disruptive” for transgenders to serve than African Americans or women.
Six months ago that line of argument would have been viewed as nothing more than a stern — or even critical — admonition: An admonition to get in line with transgenders openly serving in the military. While sexual behavior and race are not remotely equivalent, and while it is offensive to imply moral or religious objections are equivalent to racism, the core statement would still have been in line with then-public policy.
But that’s not precisely the world today.
That “critical” — if cut off — comment is not just a dig toward those who would deny transgenders military service. It’s also a direct reference to the exact words of President Trump, who, in his initial announcement banning transgenders, said [emphasis added]
…Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [sic] in the military would entail.
Perhaps Chief Wright’s statement was just inarticulate.* Maybe he momentarily reverted to previous talking points, held over from when transgenders were openly allowed to serve. Perhaps what he said wasn’t quite the way he would have phrased it given a second opportunity. Maybe he’s simply been misunderstood. Sometimes even the most practiced leaders and speakers don’t communicate as well as they should.
On the other hand, some have claimed certain military leaders are trying to figure out a way to slow-roll or reverse President Trump’s directive banning transgenders.
Chief Wright’s off-the-cuff remark could potentially add fuel to that fire, because, on the topic of transgenders, some might think the highest ranking enlisted Airman in the US Air Force just publicly undermined the orders of his Commander in Chief.
*Chief Wright said “there was a time [he] couldn’t serve” in the Air Force, yet that is flatly wrong. He’s male, and there have been African American Airmen (even pilots) since before the Air Force was an independent service. See, for example, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. Unless Chief Wright is homosexual, there doesn’t appear to have been a policy change that previously would have prevented him from serving.
Also at the Air Force Times.