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War troops to undergo 'don't ask' repeal classes

By JULIE WATSON, Associated Press

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- A senior U.S. Marine general in Afghanistan said Thursday his Marines will begin undergoing training to prepare for the repeal of the military's ban on openly gay troops before they return home.

Maj. Gen. Richard Mills told reporters in a teleconference call from Helmand Province that Marines coming off the battlefield will undergo formal classes, discussion groups and "extensive" training to make sure each individual understands the new rules.

It was the first time the Marines Corps has revealed specific details on how it plans to train troops for the repeal of "don't ask don't tell." The Marine Corps was the most resistant to the change, according the Pentagon's military-wide poll.

Mills says educational material for the training has been distributed to senior officers and it includes setting up scenarios and handling ethical discussions.

"I really don't think it's going to be earthshaking," he said. "Young Marines will be receptive to it."

He said the classes' instructors will be trained in the next month or so.

Final implementation of the new policy will go into effect 60 days after the president and his senior defense advisers certify that lifting the ban won't hurt troops' ability to fight.

The Marine Corps' top leader, Gen. James Amos, previously expressed concerns about how the repeal would affect troops in the midst of war. But after Congress approved lifting the ban, Amos said he expects the corps will excel in implementing the new policy and being respectful of any gay recruits.

Mills said it has been a non-issue on the battlefield.

"'Don't ask, don't tell' out here has not had much impact," said the general, who is in charge of coalition forces in southwest Afghanistan, where fighting is the heaviest.

Later, he added with a chuckle: "There's not a lot of dating of any kind that goes on out here, so it's not really come up."

As troops come off the battlefield, Mills said they will have time to rest and focus their attention before starting the mandatory classes.

He said most Marines would have some form of training by the time they return home.

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