Beyond ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’: Milestone Photo and a Related Reflection from Field Marshall Bill Slim

Now that my friends in the US military have moved beyond Leviticus, and abolished the shameful ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell policy’, that cost it the service of many brave men and womenI thought this image a suitable way to commemorate the return of a sailor from a voyage as well as the return of common sense as well reported by the conservative UK Daily Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/8972431/Women-sailors-share-first-gay-kiss-in-US-Navy.html

Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta (L) kisses her girlfriend of two years, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach. Good on you Marissa and Citalic.

I reminded by this of Field Marshall Viscount William Joseph ‘Bill’ Slim, (1891-1970) perhaps my favorite World War 2 General, who, when homosexuality was first made legal in the UK in 1967 , was asked as he arrived back from an overseas trip by a journalist, who assumed he would be suitably reactionary, what he thought of homosexuality being made legal. He simply said with a grin: ‘Oh I am all in favour of it, so long as it is not compulsory’. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Slim,_1st_Viscount_Slim

This is Bill, some decades ahead of his allies’ military.

File:FM william Slim.jpg

Quote from one of his soldiers in Burma:

‘But the biggest boost to morale was the burly man who came to talk to the assembled battalion … it was unforgettable. Slim was like that: the only man I’ve ever seen who had a force that came out of him…British soldiers don’t love their commanders much less worship them; Fourteenth Army trusted Slim and thought of him as one of themselves, and perhaps his real secret was that the feeling was mutual’.

And Max Hastings:

‘In contrast to almost every other outstanding commander of the war, Slim was a disarmingly normal human being, possessed of notable self-knowledge. He was without pretension, devoted to his wife, Aileen, their family and the Indian Army. His calm, robust style of leadership and concern for the interests of his men won the admiration of all who served under him … His blunt honesty, lack of bombast and unwillingness to play courtier did him few favours in the corridors of power. Only his soldiers never wavered in their devotion.’

A wise leader indeed.

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About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
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