It’s hard enough to keep your sexuality a secret while serving in the armed forces. But what if you want to join NROTC on your college campus — with the admirable goal of following in your grandfather’s footsteps — while also enjoying the freedoms of going away to university for four years of being your gay self? For one George Washington University freshman, the plan all came crumbling down when he kissed his boyfriend at a party.
Todd Belok says he knew how hard it would be to live under the radar going into NROTC (the naval division), which he applied for while still a senior in high school. “I had done a report on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in 12th grade. I knew what it meant to be gay in the military,” he tells GWU’s The Hoya. But even still, he moved forward with plans to enroll. And then his boyfriend visited in the fall, they went to a frat party with other NROTC members, and they shared a kiss in front of others.
“We kissed at the party,” he said. “I was surprised when my commanding officer called me about it a few weeks later.”
What Belok did not know was that two other midshipmen who had attended the party, GWU freshman Dave Perry and Squad Leader Nick Trimis, a GWU senior, reported his actions to Lt. Kathleen Meeuf, an assistant professor of naval science. Still, Belok said, he expected that the situation would be swept under the rug without much controversy.
Yet, just a month later, he learned that he would either have to withdraw from the NROTC program or face a Performance Review Board. After consulting with Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Network attorneys, who advised that he withdraw and re-enter the Navy after college through the Officers Candidates School, Belok chose instead to go in front of the PRB.
In October, the PRB recommended Belok for disenrollment and dismissed him from the battalion in December.
Belok was removed from the NROTC despite a GWU policy which protects students in school-sponsored clubs from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
According to the university’s Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities for the 2008 – 2009 school year, “The university will not permit discrimination on grounds of sex, race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or identity, or any other illegal basis in any university-recognized area of student life.”
Lieutenant Colonel Dan Koprowski, professor of military science and the head of Georgetown’s ROTC program, said that Georgetown had not dealt with any similar situations during his tenure.
“I am not aware of any ROTC cadet at Georgetown having been separated from the program under ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ If it has happened, it was before I arrived in July 2007,” he said in an e-mail.
But despite all that:
Belok, who received numerous messages of support from other servicemen and women, plans to help push for this change. He is attending the “Freedom to Serve Rally,” sponsored by the Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Network, which hopes to incite progress in repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He and other supporters of homosexuals in the military will rally on Capitol Hill on March 13.
Despite being dismissed from the NROTC, Belok still hopes to someday serve his country in the military.