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Gen. Milley’s award to use he/him pronouns despite DOD policy requiring gender-neutral language

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Daily Caller News Foundation

  • Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley’s award recommendation will use “gender-specific” pronouns, a spokesperson for Milley told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • A recent update to Department of Defense policy required the gender-neutral “themself” to be used in recommendation letters.
  • “Should this issuance require additional updates from the August 7, 2023 change, the Department will follow the same process to update or change the issuance as required,” a Pentagon spokesperson told the DCNF.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley’s end-of-tour award citation will include “gender-specific” pronouns, although a recent change to Department of Defense (DOD) policy requires the use of gender-neutral language, the Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.

On Aug. 7, DOD updated a regulation for joint decorations and awards to require that officials use the “gender-neutral” term “themself” in lieu of “himself” or “herself” when preparing recommendation letters for joint awards and citations. Milley’s award citation, however, includes pronouns appropriate to his gender and will be processed for a final sign-off using that language, a spokesperson for the chairman told the DCNF on Sept. 5.

“General Milley’s award recommendation includes gender specific pronouns. The award recommendation will be processed for approval containing gender specific language,” Col. Dave Butler, a spokesperson for Milley, told the DCNF.

The timeline for processing the award recommendation was not clear. Milley is set to retire at the end of September after his term as the chairman, which is legally restricted to four years.

A DOD spokesperson later confirmed the update to the awards policy but noted that it could be changed again if updates are needed.

The Pentagon’s reversion to appropriate-gender pronouns comes amid scrutiny, largely from the right, over its emphasis on progressive social values including respecting “preferred” pronouns describing a spectrum of gender identities.

Change 5 of DOD Manual 1348.33, Volume 4, Manual of Military Decorations and Awards states: DOD Joint Decorations and Awards “[i]ncorporates gender neutral language.” A review of the manual’s prior version, dated May 7, 2021, shows sample text for the recommendation letters replacing a suggestion to use “himself or herself” with “themself.”

For example, in the older guidance, the suggested opening sentence for a Defense Distinguished Service Medal (DDSM) decoration is written as follows:

“DDSM Opening Sentence: General First M. Last, Sr., United States (Military Service), distinguished (himself or herself) by exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility as (position and duty assignment), from (month year) to (month year).”

The corresponding text in the updated version reads:

“DDSM Opening Sentence: (Rank) First M. Last, Sr., United States (Military Service), distinguished themself by exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility as (position and duty assignment), from (month year) to (month year).”

The DDSM is the most distinguished possible decoration someone who served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a Combatant Command or other defense agency can receive for serving on a joint assignment — involving more than one military department — and is reserved for the highest ranking officials.

Examples of opening sentences for other awards in the same category, including the Defense Superior Service Medal (DSSM), Defense Meritorious Service Medal (DMSM), Joint Service Commendation Medal (JSCM), Joint Service Achievement Medal (JSAM) and Joint Meritorious Unit Award (JMUA) reflect the same changes from “himself or herself” to “themself.” Such awards can be issued upon moving to a new location, retirement or separation from the military and can also be made posthumously, the guidance states.

“Department of Defense Manual 1348.33-V4 Manual of Military Decorations and Awards: DoD Joint Decorations and Awards, last updated Aug. 7, incorporates gender-neutral language in Joint award citations. The Department consistently updates/changes policy issuances in order to remain in compliance with law, regulations and other policies,” a Defense Department spokesperson told the DCNF late on Friday.

“Should this issuance require additional updates from the August 7, 2023 change, the Department will follow the same process to update or change the issuance as required,” the spokesperson added.


By that time, news of the policy change, first noted by the Heritage Foundation, had reached lawmakers. Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton mocked the policy in a Friday letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, wondering why such a change was necessary if each recommendation “refers to a specific, named person whose ‘preferred gender’ is presumably known.”

“The Department’s embrace of far-left gender ideology doesn’t merely subvert the English language in ways that would astonish George Orwell. Worse, it exemplifies a Pentagon leadership consumed by the fads of the faculty lounge at a time when the Army can’t hit its recruiting goals, the Navy can’t keep ships out of dry dock, and the Air Force can’t find spare parts for planes,” Cotton wrote.

The guidance’s August revision shows that it incorporated changes from the Oct. 2022 White House Executive Order 14085 amending eligibility requirements for several awards.

This 2022 executive order changed phrases in prior orders establishing awards, including the Bronze Star Medal and the Air Medal and those covered in Executive Order 13830, from “distinguishes, or has distinguished, himself” to “distinguish, or have distinguished, themselves,” the order shows. It also required replacing “men” with “members” in the eligibility description for the Good Conduct Medal.

The executive order did not, however, proscribe a switch to gender-neutral language in award recommendation letters.

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Republished with permission from Daily Caller News Foundation

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