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Amid uncertainty about transgender policy, Army continues rolling out training to soldiers

June 17, 2017 (Photo Credit: Gregory Bull/AP)
The Defense Department is working on a July 1 deadline to complete transgender integration training, so the Army is moving forward with its preparations despite an indefinite hold that's been placed on the decision to allow transgender civilians to join the military.

Both the active and reserve components have continued preparing for the final phase of the integration timeline laid out last year by DoD, which lifted the ban on transgender service last June and is supposed to open up enlistments and commissions this July.

"All of this is an effort to ensure the seamless transition and the full implementation of DoD policy," said Zenia Boswell, a representative from the Army National Guard's Personnel Policy Division, in a Thursday press release.

As of July 1, the release went on to say, "a person's gender status — including being transgender — will no longer be a disqualifying factor from enlisting in the military."

But it's more complicated than that, as DoD has not yet finalized a transgender accessions policy. In the meantime, officials said, units are continuing to get training on the existing directive for currently serving soldiers. 

When the Army released its transgender policy directive last September, it also put out a training handbook for socializing the policy and began working on a module that would eventually reach every soldier.

"By November 2016, the Army developed the necessary training and education to ensure that all members of the force understood the core principles of the Army's policy on the military service of transgender soldiers," Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, an Army spokeswoman, told Army Times on Thursday.

The program is not as involved as something like the mandatory Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Prevention, or SHARP, training, for example, which often involves instructional videos and interactive role playing. The transgender training, Johnson said, focuses mostly on the policy itself and how it applies.

"The Army interim teaching module provides guidance concerning soldiers whose gender transition is otherwise complete and are awaiting an administrative change to their gender marker," she said. "The training module specifically outlines key roles and responsibilities of commanders, transgender soldiers, military medical providers and administrative management organizations."

Members of the Army National Guard and Army Reserve have also been briefed on staying within regulations and how the transition policy applies to their individual situations.

"If a [Guard member] is on active duty orders, Tricare Prime will provide gender transition medical care to service members based on medical guidance from a military provider," Boswell said in the release. "If traditional [Guard members] have Tricare Reserve Select, they would have to use that in concert with whatever civilian insurance they have, or they would have to use the civilian insurance by itself." 

As the Army worked to put out the training, and the first wave of serving transgender soldiers applied for and were granted a gender marker change in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, the services could not come to an agreement on an accessions policy for new transgender troops.

When he announced lifting the ban on June 30, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter suggested requiring 18 months of stabilization in a citizen's new gender before being eligible for military service. That and other stipulations are still under discussion, and officials told Military Times that DoD does not expect to meet the July 1 deadline.

Continuing to prepare for full integration is still within policy, however, officials said.

"It’s about training in anticipation of the July 1 policy," Sgt. 1st Class W. Michael Houk, a National Guard spokesman, told Army Times. "To my knowledge, we’re not in conflict with DoD’s guidance. The training section of this started back in October of last year. You’re going to find units all over the place getting ready for the implementation of this policy."
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