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As the military integrates women into combat roles and establishes policies for transgender trainees, existing service members must adapt to the changing environment. Daft defines disruptive changes as “result[ing] from sudden shocks and surprises that radically change an industry’s rules” (Daft, 2013, p. 432).  Although the gender integration has been in process for over a decade (transgender issues far less), in the slow-to-change world of the military, this fits the disruptive change definition.

This disruptive culture change is forcing service members to adapt or to leave the organization. The military is a largely conservative organization. According to the Washington Post, 41 percent of the military self-identifies as conservative vs. 14 percent who identify as Democrat (2013). Accordingly, changes involving social issues are typically slow in acceptance and rocky in implementation. However, a decade plus of continuous war may change this dynamic.

Service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan “came to judge women in the crucible of combat based on their individual merit, not on gender” (Cone, 2016, p. 5). It is not unreasonable to expect that this same merit-based assessment will apply to transgender service members as they take their places in the ranks.  

Ultimately, the culture change will have little impact on the military’s ability to fight and win the Nation’s wars. Service members will be judged on their merits and not their gender. As with the 1948 desegregation order, the military will again lead the nation in eliminating barriers to an individual’s rights and professional achievement.

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