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Top enlisted sailor says he’s ‘honored’ and ‘blessed’ to serve with transgender troops

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Steven S. Giordano addresses the crew of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) during an all-hands call in the ship's hangar bay. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Murray/Released)

The Navy’s top enlisted sailor expressed his support for transgender servicemembers during a visit to South Korea last week.

“We are honored and blessed to have you on our team, and you will continue to have my support,” Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven Giordano told Stars and Stripes in a comment directed toward transgender troops following an all-hands call Friday at Chinhae.

Giordano’s comment came a day after Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis went before lawmakers and defended a proposed Pentagon policy that would bar most transgender people from military service. The policy — approved by President Donald Trump in March — has not been enacted, pending the outcome of a series of lawsuits opposing it.

Mattis has recommended that the military disqualify transgender people with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria, with some exceptions, as well as those who require or have undergone gender transition.

Giordano’s sentiments echo similar comments the Army’s top enlisted soldier made to Pentagon reporters in early April.

“We haven’t heard any issues or concerns, and I personally have not had any issues or concerns,” Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey said of transgender soldiers.

As the top enlisted troops in their respective services, Giordano and Dailey represent the rank and file. They devote much of their time to traveling and observing training; they talk with servicemembers and their families to get their opinions on the direction of the force.

“We treat all sailors with dignity and respect; we treat all sailors fair and equitable,” Giordano said.

A 2016 Pentagon study found that about 1 percent of the force, or nearly 9,000 troops, identify as transgender. Activist groups have put that number as high as 15,000.

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© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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