London, Oct 12 : The head of the British Army has created military history by taking a bold step towards attracting homosexual recruits.
In a speech to members of the Army-sponsored Fourth Joint Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual Matters in London, General Sir Richard Dannatt, the chief of the general staff, said that homosexuals were welcome to serve in the Army.
In the first of its kind speech by any Army chief, Gen Sir Richard said that respect for gays, lesbian, bi-sexual and trans-sexual officers and soldiers was now 'a command responsibility' and was vital for 'operational effectiveness'.
"We have made real progress in our understanding of equality and diversity in the military context, and there is a desire to achieve more yet. My recent Equality and Diversity Directive for the Army sets the standard that we must live by, and, importantly, it communicates that standard to everyone in the chain of command," the Telegraph quoted him, as saying during the speech.
"Respect for Others", one of the Army's core values, is at the heart of this directive.
"Respect for others is not an optional extra, it is a command responsibility and an essential part of leadership, teamwork and operational effectiveness. We must get dealing with each other in the Army right, so that we also get it right when dealing with other populations on operations, when we often have men and women from other nations under command," he added.
According to sources, Gen Dannatt was determined to speak at the conference because he wanted to demonstrate that the modern Army is a tolerant organisation, where people of any sexual orientation can make a valuable contribution.
"There will be a reaction to this by some in the Army but I think the majority of soldiers will welcome it. Being gay isn't the issue it once was. What matters on the battlefield is how you fight not who you sleep with - it's just not an issue," the source said.