Members of the Military Acceptance Project, an organization started by graduate students from the USC School of Social Work, launched a website earlier this month to educate service members about the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
The site features articles, training materials and other sources of information designed to give information and support to all military members in light of the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell, the policy that prohibited lesbian, gay or bisexual service members from, discussing their sexual orientation. The bill to repeal the policy was passed in 2010.
The Military Acceptance Project provides links and information to services that offer help and support LGB service members.
MAP was co-founded by Kristen Kavanaugh, a former Marine Corps captain and graduate of the United States Naval Academy. Kavanaugh, a first-year graduate student working toward a master’s degree in social work, said she got the idea to create the organization after she began her studies at USC in January.
“My social welfare class was given an assignment to advocate for an oppressed or marginalized population,” Kavanaugh said. “The implementation of the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell was on my mind, and I suggested that we advocate for lesbian, gay and bisexual service members affected by the passage of the repeal.”
Jasper Kump, a public relations associate from the MAP, said the organizations’ central mission is to encourage others to be more accepting of all former, current and future service members, especially those who have been marginalized for any reason.
Currently, MAP is focusing solely on issues relating to the LGB community, but will seek to expand the issues they cover in the future.
Kump said the effects of DADT have long been felt by LGB service members. The MAP combines its members’ passions for the military and helping others into one organization that seeks to better understand how we can help the LGB community.
“It is our hope that the website will not only provide information regarding the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell, but will also serve as a catalyst to help educate, enlighten, and empower all members of the military to treat each other with understanding, respect, and equality,” Kump said.
Jane Allgood, a clinical associate professor of social work who oversaw the project from its inception, said MAP has already had an immediate impact on the USC community.
“[The MAP] further demonstrates how USC is on the forefront in providing social work services to the military,” Allgood said. “The School of Social Work is the first in the country to have a true focus on military social work, and to have the structure we do for research on the military and their families.”
The reaction to the MAP so far has been positive, according to Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh has also received encouraging feedback from both the LGB and the straight communities, as well as both military members and civilians.
Kump said the organization has faced very few challenges in its early stages.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many people are not only supportive but also excited about the work we’re beginning,” Kavanaugh said. “The Department of Defense as well as branches of the military were all interested, and cooperated with us in sourcing information for the site, providing us with training materials, and serving as a contact for anonymous feedback from LGB service members.”
Nick Borrelli, a first-year graduate student in social work who also works with the MAP, said he has seen many people, not just at USC but around southern California, request additional information about DADT’s repeal and its significance for the LGB community.
“I’ve had so many classmates interning at the Department of Veteran Affairs in San Diego asking them to pass on this knowledge,” Borrelli said. “They have clients asking them questions directly related to what we’re working on, and these resources that we have would be amazing for them.”
The MAP hopes to aid LGB service members for many years to come, even after Kavanaugh and her fellow students receive their degrees from USC.
“Our team understands that the project does not end at the close of the semester, but is committed to continuing the project until there is no longer a need for it,” Allgood said.