EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Discharged Airman Wanted Out
June 16 2011 11:40 AM ET
Last fall, a 28-year-old airman stationed at a base in Tucson walked into his commander’s office, admitted that he was gay, and asked that he be discharged as quickly as possible under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
The case of Airman 1st Class Albert Pisani, a munitions systems specialist at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, was recently confirmed by Defense officials as the only discharge under DADT since late October, when the Pentagon limited authority for discharges to just five senior officials.
Pisani confirmed to The Advocate in an interview this week that he indeed pressed for his discharge under the policy, as officials have maintained.
Earlier this month, Pentagon and Air Force representatives did not reveal Pisani’s identity but acknowledged his separation under DADT after Metro Weekly reported news June 2 of the discharge — one that had been approved by Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley.
“It was my choice. I wanted to get out. ... I was done with what was going on at the time,” Pisani said.
Reached by phone, Pisani declined to discuss specifics on both his decision to out himself and his aggressive follow-up to ensure his discharge. But he said he was subjected to antigay comments and suspected his job performance was being unfairly scrutinized because of his sexual orientation. Pisani also expressed misgivings about the terms of “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal and how it may affect gay service members’ ability to serve openly in the future, and his worries align with the concerns of many repeal advocates.
Although President Barack Obama signed repeal into law in December, DADT remains in effect pending certification by the president, secretary of Defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and certification must be followed by a 60-day waiting period. Outgoing Defense secretary Robert Gates said earlier this week that repeal could be certified before he leaves office June 30, which gay service member groups have strongly advocated.
In late September, Pisani, who had served a tour of duty in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province in late 2009 to early 2010, said he walked into the office of his first sergeant at Davis-Monthan and disclosed his sexual orientation, wanting to leave. (His end of enlistment date had been scheduled for January 2012.) But the admission was made during a tumultuous, beginning-of-the-end period of the DADT policy, when a federal judge had ruled it unconstitutional, the Defense Department had moved to severely curtail discharge authority, and lawmakers were fighting over legislative repeal of the 1993 law.
As a result, his discharge proceedings appeared to Pisani to be on hold. So he wrote an email to Air Force secretary Donley about the situation.
“I normally wouldn’t be writing you directly and understand there will be consequences; however this has to do with my life, career, and future,” Pisani wrote. “I am a USAF enlisted member and I have come out to my leadership about being gay back in September. ... My decision to come out was completely voluntary on my part.
“With everything going on in Congress and not knowing what was going to happen, I decided to get out,” Pisani continued in the email to Donley. “I want to move on with my life. It is awkward to come into work, with all the rumors going around in my section. I can say, it has been harder to not only be gay, but gay in the military.”
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