James Madison University

Writer of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Visits JMU Psychology Students

PHOTO: DADTOn September 22, 2014, visiting scholar Colonel Gary Packard, Ph.D., arrived on campus to give a lecture entitled “Gays in the Military: Why the All-Volunteer Force Didn’t ‘Break’ with the Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don't Tell.’”  Dr. Jeff Dyche, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, was instrumental in sponsoring Col. Packard’s visiting scholarship lecture.  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was the law and policy enacted in 1994 prohibiting military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted gay, lesbian, or bisexual service members, while at the same time barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service. 

Col. Packard represented the United States Air Force in writing the repeal of DADT, enacted on September 20, 2011. The Colonel’s talk focused on his research that countered the belief of many of our nation’s military leaders.  Many military leaders (1,167 retired admirals and generals signed a petition against repealing the act in 2009) believed that recruitment would wane if potential recruits knew that they may be in a unit with an openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual individual. 

Col. Packard and his team surveyed around 400,000 military personnel to assess attitudes towards DADT. Approximately 30% of respondents supported DADT, 20% supported repealing DADT, and approximately 50% were neutral to DADT in its current form. His work is an example of how survey research can inform policy. Many public and corporate leaders frequently call upon psychological research to make decisions regarding their policy.

Approximately one year after DADT repeal passed, Col. Packard and his team assessed the consequences of repeal. Col. Packard found that there were no significant increases in reporting issues related to openly gay military personnel. Those members of the military that were discharged before DADT repeal are not guaranteed their positions back, but they are no longer barred from re-entry as any other potential service member. Some have indeed come back into their respective service.

While on campus, Col. Packard also visited two psychology classes to talk with students about his participation in the repeal.  Col. Packard has 36 years of Air Force service, is a command pilot with over 4000 hours of flying time and has served as an instructor pilot. Academically, he holds a master’s degree in Aeronautical Science from Emory-Riddle, and an MA and Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from UNC Chapel Hill. He has taught psychology, leadership, and statistics at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO since 2003. He is currently Professor and Department Head of the Academy’s Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership.