Serving With Openly Gay Soldiers And Sailors

Guests

Michael Shear, reporter, Washington Post
Lt. Cmdr. Craig Jones, retired from the United Kingdom's Royal Navy in 2008

The military's controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy could soon be repealed. But the deal to reverse the law may fall short of the votes it needs to pass. The U.K.'s version of the law was repealed in 2000. Service members there provide clues as to how it might affect the U.S. military.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

While President Obama supports repeal of don't ask, don't tell, he also wanted to wait until after the military completes a review on how to actually incorporate openly gay men and lesbian women, maybe later this year.

But this week, the president decided to endorse a repeal bill if it includes a compromise. It won't take effect until that military review is complete. There could be votes in Congress this week.

A poll released yesterday by CNN reports that nearly 80 percent of Americans say it's time to end don't ask, don't tell, but it's not clear that Congress feels the same way. Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown said there are other reasons to wait.

Senator SCOTT BROWN (Republican, Massachusetts): We're fighting two wars right now, and the most - the first priority is to finish the job and win those wars. I'd like hear from the generals in the field, in the field, the people that actually work with these soldiers, to make sure that, you know, the social change is not going to disrupt our ability to finish the job and complete the wars.

CONAN: So if you've served in the military, is it time to allow openly gay people to serve? We'd also like to hear from those of you who may have served in the armed forces of countries where this is already established policy.

A little bit later, we'll hear from a retired British navy officer about the transition there 10 years ago.

Our phone number: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Go to npr.org, and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, Dudus Coke: benefactor, political heavyweight, alleged gang chief drug lord and now Jamaica's most-wanted man. But first: the future of don't ask, don't tell. We begin with Washington Post reporter Michael Shear, who joins us from the studios at the newspaper. Thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. MICHAEL SHEAR (Reporter, Washington Post): Sure. Glad to be here.

CONAN: And how did Democrats on the Hill strike this deal with the White House?

Mr. SHEAR: Well, you know, there's a lot of urgency now that the Democrats -the advocates of repealing don't ask, don't tell - feel. There are, of course, elections coming up in November, and the concern among many of the advocates is that the House and the Senate are not going to look as favorable to a repeal of this after November, as it perhaps does now.

They sort of anticipate the kind of losses that people have been talking about for the Democratic Party, both in the House and the Senate. If that's the case, they think this is sort of the last opportunity for them to try to get this repealed. And as a result, the study that you had mentioned earlier that the military wants to do was kind of getting in the way.

CONAN: The study - President Obama mentioned that at the State of the Union Message, where he said it was just the right thing to do to repeal it. But he also said that Secretary Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were going to find out - well, there's lots of practical questions about how this could actually be implemented.

Mr. SHEAR: Right. The way the military had presented the idea of a study was that it would be not a whether to do a repeal study, but rather just simply how to implement it. And the advocates for repealing don't ask, don't tell have sort of seized upon that and said, well, if it's only an implementation study, how best to go about it, well, then we can repeal it now, take the official vote in Congress which is required in order to repeal it. Let's do that now and wait to actually implement it until the study's done.

The opponents of a repeal have seized on the study and said, look, you know, this is ridiculous. Until we complete the study, we can't really know what we're up against, and so let's wait.

CONAN: Some of the questions involved if - when this is applied, if the repeal is applied, how do you recognize spouses of gay service members? Do you have to be married in a state where that's legal? What about if you're based in a state where that's not - there's all kinds of questions.

Mr. SHEAR: Right. And in some ways, the questions mirror some of the questions in the broader society, too, right? You know, we just had an issue come up not that long about the whole question about visitation in hospitals for partners of patients who are gay.

You know, there's all sorts of issues that do come up, and I think the military has made points that resonate with folks like Scott Brown, who you quoted there, in which they say, look. You know, this is a sort of closed society. It's an important - important to have what they always talk about, the kind of unit cohesion, the good morale. You know, there's lots of things that we need to think about as we do this.

The problem for the folks who oppose repealing it or who take that position is that the commander-in-chief, the president of the United States, has said he wants it repealed. He made that promise during the campaign. He's repeated that since he's become president, and so at some level, the folks in the military are having to salute and say yes, sir.

CONAN: Yeah. And the secretary of defense has given a rather more lukewarm...

Mr. SHEAR: Very tepid.

CONAN: ...endorsement of the idea of pre-approving the repeal. What does the situation look like in Congress? First, this would come up, I gather, in a Senate committee, the Armed Services Committee?

Mr. SHEAR: Right. There's two possible votes that could take place as early as tomorrow morning. One would be in the Senate Armed Services Committee. Another would be on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Both are considering, essentially, emergency defense authorizations, money that would be spent on the military. And in both cases, the advocates are going to attach the repeal: in the House case, on the floor of the House of Representatives, in the Senate side, in the committee - the idea being that if they attach it to a very popular bill that even a lot of Republicans don't want - or do want to pass, then it will have a much greater likelihood of passing.

So far, I talked to the White House folks about an hour ago, they believe they have the votes for this.

CONAN: They believe they have the votes for this, in both the Senate and the House.

Mr. SHEAR: Well, they - they're focused most carefully on the Senate right now, because that's where they think it's going to go first, and they need 15 votes. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a Democrat, came out earlier today and said he was going to support the compromise. And so - and Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican, who is also on the committee, has already said she will support it. So with that, they think they have the votes. They think they have the needed votes. Of course, this is Congress, and anything can happen.

CONAN: Anything can happen. Yes, indeed. Then it would go, be attached to the defense expenditure, considered a must-passed bill.

Mr. SHEAR: Right. I mean, that's the idea, is that you - there's very few people who would think, you know, let's kill all the spending for the military because we don't like this one provision. So the idea goes that the advocates attach it to this must-pass bill, and it would be voted out in the House, voted out in the Senate, and then ultimately signed by the president and become law.

CONAN: And Speaker Pelosi thinks she has the votes, too?

Mr. SHEAR: I believe the sense in the House is that they are closer than - or they have more wiggle room than in the Senate. And so the defense authorization bill in the House has already passed through the committee. This language was not attached in committee.

So it's on the floor of the House, and, of course, the speaker has a very large majority right now. And so the feeling is that the House is not the concern. The question had been the Senate, where several Democrats - including, for example, Virginia Senator Jim Webb - had been resisting this compromise, had been wanting to wait until the study was done, which won't be until December. But it looks like they've picked up enough of those sort of hesitant Democrats that they have the votes.

CONAN: We're talking with Michael Shear, a reporter for the Washington Post, about the political prospects for a repeal of don't ask, don't tell. There could be votes in Congress as soon as this week on a compromise, which would pass the repeal - if there are the votes for it - and then wait to implement it until after a military review as to actually how to implement the changes in the military is completed, probably late this year.

800-989-8255 is our phone number. Is it time to pass don't ask - to repeal don't ask, don't tell? And why don't we start in - excuse me. We'll start with Jason, Jason with us from Huntington in West Virginia.

JASON (Caller): Hi. I just want to say that I served on the USS Belleau Wood from 1993 to 1995 in Japan. Just prior to my arrival aboard that ship, there was a seaman apprentice who was outed as being gay, and whose life became extremely difficult after that.

People would harass him constantly. He was punched while he was sleeping in his rack one time, and ultimately, two men followed him into a bathroom - we were in Japan - and murdered him in the bathroom...

CONAN: Oh, my gosh.

JASON: ...in a public park. It was - "20/20" covered it. It was a big deal. It was terrible. But my point being that not everybody who is anti-gay or not everybody who is necessarily against homosexuals being in the military is part of an anti-gay agenda.

There are going to be a lot of problems, especially among the lower-ranking people. If their minds are already made up about this, no amount of education, I think, is going to sway people by the time they're 18 and in the military, and there are definitely going to be problems. You know, you mentioned unit cohesion. Things like that are going to happen. I personally would have no problem serving with someone who was gay, but there will be a large segment of the troops that will.

CONAN: Jason, what do you make of public opinion polls, at least - this is public opinion polls, for what that's worth. But they say that attitudes amongst young people have changed considerably.

JASON: Certainly, they have. But the military, while I met some fabulous, fabulous, wonderful, intelligent, talented people there, there is a share of unenlightened folks. I've - you know, the military is often portrayed in a way that it's not. It's - there are a lot of people there that would not be comfortable at all, and it would make - it would be problematic, to say the least, at its inception. I'm not casting a judgment one way or the other, but I'm - not everybody who is against this is necessarily a bigot.

CONAN: All right, Jason. Thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it. And, well, Michael, the analogy is often drawn to the integration of the armed forces, racial integration in 1950, President - ordered by President Truman. And indeed, there was some difficulty, culturally, to that, as well. Nevertheless, it has been viewed as an overall success that the military, once given orders, salutes and says yes, sir.

Mr. SHEAR: Right. I mean, I think the caller makes a good point, and there is no doubt that there are very principled objections to this that are being made that have nothing to do with a sort of bigoted attitude towards gays, but rather a serious and substantial question about a transition period and how difficult that transition period may be.

And you heard Scott Brown say - and I think a lot of the senators think, as well - it's - they object to this sort of - this moment in time, when we're fighting two wars and the like.

Having said that, ultimately, I think the advocates to this say, yes. There will be a transition. People will have to adjust. There may be some issues. But look at the integration racially, and look at how far we've come. And they expect that the transition will be shorter here because, as you say, the polling - I think the last poll I saw suggested something like 80 percent of the - 70 or 80 percent of the people think this it time to do this.

CONAN: And would it be your best guess - and indeed, again, it's Congress, anything can happen - that we're going to see action on this by the end of the week?

Mr. SHEAR: Yeah, my understanding is all of this should - you know, barring some last-minute changes, all of this should go down tomorrow.

CONAN: Michael Shear, thanks very much for your time today. Appreciate it.

Mr. SHEAR: Certainly.

CONAN: Michael Shear, a reporter for the Washington Post, with us today from their studios here in Washington, D.C.

While don't ask, don't tell continues to be a political hot potato in Congress, a number of other countries have accepted gay and lesbian service members in their militaries for years, including the United Kingdom. When we come back, we'll talk with a retired lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy.

If you've served in the military, is it time to allow openly gay people to serve? 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

What we know now is don't ask, don't tell was first proposed by President Clinton in 1993. The policy change relaxed the long-standing ban on gay men and women in the U.S. military if they kept their sexual identity secret.

Congress later drafted that policy into law. President Clinton signed it, meaning it would take another act of Congress, rather than an executive order, to overturn the ban.

Now, 17 years later, it looks as if Congress is ready to do just that. If you've served in the military, is it time to allow openly gay people to serve? We'd also like to hear from those of you who've served in the armed forces of countries where this is already established policy. 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation at our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

The countries that already do allow openly gay men and women to serve include U.S. allies Israel, Canada and the United Kingdom. Joining us now from the BBC studio in Brighton, England is Retired Lieutenant Commander Craig Jones of the United Kingdom's Royal Navy. Thanks very much for being with us today.

Lieutenant Commander CRAIG JONES (United Kingdom's Royal Navy, Retired): It's a pleasure.

CONAN: And you served in the Royal Navy when the U.K.'s version of don't ask, don't tell was lifted back in 2000. And how did the transition go?

Lt. Cmdr. JONES: Well, it was an interesting time, and I think it's worth reminding the listeners that the repeal of the U.K. gay ban was very similar to the situation in the U.S. It was a policy born in a storm and actually forced upon the U.K. by a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights.

And I remember reading in the national press in the U.K. just a few months before repeal, open letters from very senior officers saying that they were greatly concerned that the repeal of the ban would be a bad day for the armed forces. But I can say that what happened was absolutely nothing.

CONAN: Absolutely nothing?

Lt. Cmdr. JONES: Absolutely nothing. There was a really quiet period afterwards. There was tumbleweed blowing across the policy desks in fleet headquarters. Very, very few people came out, first of all. And I think that it's worth remembering that the armed forces is full of people who are characterized by their service and not necessarily by their sexual orientation.

And armed forces people are generally conservative. So people took a look around and looked at how the first few months went. I didn't, in my case, actually. I decided to come out on the day that we lifted the ban. I really felt that perhaps it would be a helpful thing for the new policy to have a face, certainly in my own unit.

And people were edgy, uncomfortable, not quite sure how to react. Some were fantastically welcoming and recognized that I was about to go through a few difficult months. Others had been in the service for 20 years, which had alienated and tabooed the whole subject. So they really struggled.

But we had a journey for a few months, and in honesty, it had absolutely no effect on operational effectiveness, other than the fact that my ship still had a head of operations, which was my job at the time.

CONAN: Otherwise, you would have been forced to leave if you'd been outed.

Lt. Cmdr. JONES: Absolutely. And at that time, I was head of operations for the amphibious assault squadron.

CONAN: And we hear about unit cohesion in, particularly, combat units. Was that a problem?

Lt. Cmdr. JONES: Absolutely not. I'm a principal warfare officer by trade, and have spent most of my career at the front line and in coalition operations with the usual suspects.

And actually, I think that the U.S. military gay ban in some ways alienates the U.S. from its coalition partners. And I don't know if you're aware, but the countries that the U.S. shares a similar police with are people like Yemen, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia. That's an unusual bunch of folks to share a policy with.

CONAN: As opposed to Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, allies like that.

Lt. Cmdr. JONES: Absolutely.

CONAN: I want to get some callers in on the conversation, people who may have been in the U.S. military, or are now. 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. Walter's with us, Walter calling from Little Rock.

WALTER (Caller): Hello. Thank you.

CONAN: Go ahead, Walter.

WALTER: I would first like to say that I agree 100 percent with the lieutenant commander who just spoke. My experience after 22 years as a senior NCO has been very, very similar. I think it's time.

My comment would be that, just sitting right here, I can think of at least six gay and lesbian soldiers that I have worked with or for, or who have worked for me over my career, some of whom have come to me as their senior NCO for advice on this particular issue, how to deal with issues arising in their personal life.

I have never had a problem with anybody. In most of the units I've served in, it was generally known who was gay and lesbian and who was not, but if we have the ultimate fallback for disruptive issues is for enlisted people, which is my primary concern, conduct prejudicial to the good order of the service. But if you meet the regs, do your job, and I don't see a problem. I think it's time.

CONAN: Are you still in the military, sir?

WALTER: I have 22 years in the Army Reserve in July, with a total of not quite four years on active duty.

CONAN: So you've had plenty of time to observe this in practice. So when we heard that some people in the lower ranks especially would have a hard time with this, you disagree?

WALTER: No. There will be a minority. As it happens, I had this conversation with my troops at our battle assembly last weekend. I do read a newspaper every now and again...

CONAN: I see.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WALTER: ...and I told them it's coming, and you're going to have to deal with it. As has been said, when the commander-in-chief says do it, you say yes, sir, and go do it.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Walter. Appreciate it. Good luck.

WALTER: Certainly. Thank you.

CONAN: Thank you. And Lieutenant Commander Jones, was this expected when it came down, as you say, like a thunderbolt from the European court in the Royal Navy?

Lt. Cmdr. JONES: No. I actually think that the Ministry of Defense thought that they'd win the case. The case was lost in July, 1999, and it took six months to come up with our new policy, which was the Code of Social Conduct.

But as I say, it's been a complete success. And I'm absolutely sure that the repeal of DADT will be a complete success, as well.

CONAN: Let's go next to Kristen, Kristen with us from Cincinnati.

KRISTEN (Caller): Hi. I just wanted to say that I served in Korea openly, and I was fully embraced by my unit. They saw me as a hard worker, someone they could depend on, and that's all that really mattered.

CONAN: If you'd had, though, somebody in the chain of command who was maybe not your friend, this may have worked out differently.

KRISTEN: It might have worked out differently, but I've I mean, the entire unit, I was with a lot of people, and nobody ever gave me a problem. Usually, the chain of command, they either choose to ignore it, or they address it. And it's pretty well easily figured out how it works.

CONAN: And what time period were you talking about, Kristen?

KRISTEN: 2003, 2004.

CONAN: So you think things have really changed, and this should be no problem, really?

KRISTEN: Yeah. I've had a friend, he was with an infantry unit. He was a medic. He was open. And they all looked after him, and they embraced him the same way. It's just all about, you know, if you're dependable, you work hard and you help the team, then most often, they look past that.

CONAN: Kristen, thanks very much for the call. We appreciate it.

KRISTEN: Mm-hmm.

CONAN: I wonder, Lieutenant Commander Jones, before the change in policy, was there that same kind of situation in the British military, where indeed, if -people might have been happy as long as everybody did their job, but if they wanted somebody removed, and he happened to be gay, well, there's a reason to remove him.

Lt. Cmdr. JONES: Well, I guess there were many cases of people having their names being given to the Special Investigation Branch, and that was a dreadful loss of talent. And I think it's worth remembering that in the repeal of don't ask, don't tell, there will be a dividend. There will be an opportunity to reenlist all that fantastic talent that has been dismissed, the 75 or 80 Arab linguists who have been dismissed during a time of major operations, when those talents are really important.

CONAN: Let's go next to John, John with us from Colorado Springs.

JOHN (Caller): Hi. Thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

JOHN: I'm an active duty officer, about ready to be deployed to Afghanistan. And while I would welcome the repeal of don't ask, don't tell, what I think is important is to be very sensitive to the commanders on the ground and their input, because going into a deployment, going into a war zone, I think we have to be focused on kind of the mission first, mission at hand. And I think right now, at this point in time, it would be somewhat of a distraction.

CONAN: And if you're just about to start a deployment, it looks like if things go along the way they look like they're going along, you could be in the middle of your deployment when things change.

JOHN: That's correct. And like I said, I don't see a reason why most people that are gay in the military, it's known and accepted, for the most part. If someone wants to see someone removed, you can find a lot of other reasons for someone being gay. They can there's other ways in which to get other soldiers out, if there's a reason.

But right now, at this point in time, where we're at, I think it would be more of a distraction, especially for soldiers who are deploying.

CONAN: Well, if not now, when? Somebody is always going to be deployed.

JOHN: Well, I don't know. We're involved in, you know, wars on many fronts right now, so I think that - I think the most important point I'm trying to make is be sensitive to the communities on the ground. Be sensitive to their input and to what they feel is best for soldiers that are moving into harm's way and what would keep them focused. And I think that should be the primary thing we listen to do right now.

CONAN: In terms of how it's implemented or in terms of whether it's implemented?

JOHN: How it's implemented.

CONAN: And that's the review being conducted now by the secretary.

JOHN: Yes. And I think that, I think that in time it will be implemented. I just think how it's implemented is important right now...

CONAN: Could you give us an example of how the implementation might make a difference?

JOHN: Well, I'll just - for a real world example, you know, we've got soldiers right now who are in midst of a lot of stress, who are trying to get everything ready to go to Afghanistan. And I think what's important is that if this was appealed right now, for those guys and gals that are on the ground, that it would be somewhat of a distraction. So how it's implemented, you know, if Obama's really gonna pull the troops out in 2011 or somewhere down the near future, would it be that harmful then to wait?

CONAN: All right. There's a question. What do you think, Lieutenant Commander Jones?

Lt. Cmdr. JONES: I think the reality of the modern world is that there's always another military operation around the next corner, and we need to be wary of that. But I'd also like to say as a frontline operational commander that I would wish to serve alongside men and women who have an awareness of the human rights act and also the Geneva Convention and who have unfailingly good judgment. And I would not wish to serve alongside homophobes, racists and bigots, and I think it's important to keep that in mind.

CONAN: I'm sure, John, he's not describing you as a bigot. I'm sure he's trying to...

Lt. Cmdr. JONES: No, absolutely not. And my very best wishes...

JOHN: (Unintelligible)

Lt. Cmdr. JONES: And my very best wishes for your deployment.

CONAN: John?

JOHN: Yes. Thank you very much. And I understand that it's a very sensitive topic. And, you know, I wish to see it implemented - I just - for me I would like not to have it be a distraction for the soldiers on the ground.

CONAN: All right. John, again, best wishes for you and your men. Let's hope everybody comes back safe.

JOHN: Thank you very much for taking my call.

CONAN: Thanks. Bye-bye. We're talking about Don't Ask Don't Tell. It looks as if the long-standing policy may be voted on in Congress this week, both in the Senate committee and on the floor of House of Representatives, on a bill that would repeal the measure pending the completion of a military review of how it might be - how the repeal might be implemented in the military.

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let me re-introduce our guest, is Lieutenant Commander - retired Lieutenant Commander Craig Jones, left the Royal Navy in 2008 and was in the Royal Navy when the UK's version of Don't Ask Don't Tell was lifted in 2000. 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org. Let's go next Joe. Joe with us from Lansing, Michigan.

JOE (Caller): Hi. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

JOE: I just want to say I grew up in a military family. My father served 25 years in the Marine Corps as an enlisted man. And then I am also a gay man -I'm sorry. I just graduated from college and I decided to join the Navy. And it's been really difficult because half of my life has to be kept a secret.

CONAN: Yeah.

JOE: While people I know, including my boyfriend now of three years, he served in the Marine Corps without any problems. And, in fact, his best friends to this day are the straight servicemen that he serve next to. So I think a lot of people - I was the one that was raised not to believe in gays serving in the military, that it would be wrong, but come to find out it's quite accepted. And I think it's time that we expect better of our servicemen and women, in what we expect of them in how they treat people.

CONAN: When you decided to enlist, did you anticipate that this policy was going to be changed while you were in uniform?

JOE: No, sir. It is something that I have dreamed of since I was a kid. But then again, always known that I was different from everybody else and actually who I was wasn't accepted in many aspects of my life, it's something that you have to go around. So I'd really like to see this repealed...

CONAN: It would certainly make your life a lot easier if it was.

JOE: I don't know if it'd be easier. There are still people you don't know if you can trust or not, but it would definitely be something that I wouldn't have to be worried about, you know, being chucked out no matter how good of a - no matter how well I serve, it doesn't matter, you know, if I'm gay, you know?

CONAN: Mm-hmm. All right. Well, good luck, Joe.

JOE: Right. Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Here's an email from Bob in Appleton, Wisconsin. Forty-eight years ago as a brand-new Air Force judge advocate, my first active duty defense client was a gay airman who, although rated among the best in his unit, was being administratively discharged. Though his four years of service had been honorable, he was offered an undesirable discharge. Two colonels and a chief master sergeant vouched for him. Rules required his immediate discharge. This action convinced me, even in 1962, the military policy was a travesty. It still is. That from a retired lieutenant colonel.

And let's see if we can get another caller on the line. Let's go next to Doug. Doug with us from Chesterfield in South Carolina.

DOUG (Caller): Hey, how you doing?

CONAN: Good. Thanks.

DOUG: I think it's telling that Admiral Mullen, the chair the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a Navy man, is against the - is for lifting the ban, or Don't Ask Don't Tell. And I think it's primarily because the Navy, me having - me being ex-Navy, conditions homophobia out of its sailors through its boot camp. You're in such close proximity, which by the way is the argument against gays in the military, you know, that everybody is going to be so closely compacted in the foxhole or wherever.

CONAN: Or in the shower room on the ship.

DOUG: Right. But in the ship - I believe sailors, as a group, a population, probably don't care - just like all the guys I served with.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

DOUG: Because it's really just like the admiral you have from the Royal Navy.

CONAN: You just promoted him. But we'll call him a lieutenant commander.

DOUG: Oh, excuse me. I'm thinking of Admiral Mullen. It's just like the lieutenant commander. But he has no concern. It was a non-issue. And I believe it would be the same thing...

CONAN: Well, let me ask - we just have a few - in those kinds of situations, close quarters on a ship - you served on a ship at the time. Did this ever become an issue?

Lt. Cmdr. JONES: No, absolutely not. I think if you're uncomfortable about mixing in close quarters with people or you want privacy, then go and work for WalMart. The reality is, armed forces people are in close proximity to each other and therefore we need people to serve who are tolerant of that and respectful of individual space. So I didn't have any issues, not at all.

CONAN: Lieutenant Commander Jones, thank you very much for your time today. We appreciate your going to the studio there in Brighton.

Lt. Cmdr. JONES: Pleasure. And thanks for the promotion.

CONAN: You're welcome. And you'll be in touch with the pension office shortly, I'm sure.

Lt. Cmdr. JONES: Absolutely.

CONAN: Craig Jones, retired from the UK's Royal Navy in 2008. He joined us today from the BBC studios in Brighton in England.

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