If transgender volunteers are deemed fit for duty by the Pentagon, the Navy should provide opportunities for them to serve and be successful, the service's top enlisted sailor said Tuesday.

When aAsked whether he thought transgender potential recruits who have , who had already completed their gender transitions should be allowed to serve, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens told Navy Times he believes that if they meet the Navy's physical and psychological standards, they should be allowed to serve.

"So, I was a recruiter at one time. The Navy sets the guidelines for [who] what we can allow to join the Navy," he said. "So if they're physically, mentally, and morally qualified, anybody who meets those criteria has an opportunity to serve their country."

The Defense Department currently bans service for transgender people, but Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently signaled he would be open to lifting the ban.

In an interview, Stevens did not say whether he would support lifting the ban, but emphasized that SStevens said that if the DoD epartment of Defense makes the decidession to allow transgender people to serve in the ranks, then it's the job of the MCPON and all the Navy's leaders not to judge people, but to ensure they can have a successful career.

"My philosophy has always been this, that as a leader, I have a duty and responsibility to provide an opportunity where every sailor can be successful — and that we're going to do that while treating one another with dignity and respect," he said.

"So, that's it, I don't pass judgment on any sailor and I don't hold anything against sailors but what I do as a leader is set conditions and provide opportunity for them to be successful, plain and simple. As the master chief petty officer of the Navy, I see sailors."

DoD rules

Current DoD policy bans service for transgender people under a regulation against those with a "current or history of psychosexual conditions, including but not limited to transsexualism, exhibitionism, transvestism, voyeurism and other paraphilias."

At a Feb. 22 town hall-style meeting in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in March Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he is open to lifting the ban. also indicated he would support lifting the ban.

"... I'm very open-minded about ... what their personal lives and proclivities are, provided they can do what we need them to do for us. That's the important criteria. Are they going to be excellent service members?" said Carter, who took over as SECDEF in mid-February.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen told Military Times that the department is not specifically reviewing its transgender policy, but acknowledged that military health officials in February began reviewing the current medical accessions policy, which includes the ban on transsexualism as a psychosexual condition.

The review is expected to take 12 to 18 months, Christensen said.

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michelle Howard discussed considerations about allowing transgender people to serve at a March 8 all hands call. Howard, above, spoke at an all hands call in August at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.

Photo Credit: MC3 Bradley Gee/Navy

The issue has been in the news and on sailors' minds recently, coming up at a March 8 all-hands call with Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michelle Howard in Naples, Itally.

When asked by a sailor asked about the prospect of serving alongside transgender troops, Howard responded that logistical issues — such as increased medical care and deployability — could complicate the issuethat possibility.

"I think the real issue will be — for the services — we are required to maintain worldwide deployability," Howard said. "The issue isn't merely, in the case of some sailors, where that is how they view themselves. The — the issue is, can they maintain worldwide deployability?"

She added that some countries in which where sailors might be asked to serve would not accept transgender troops, and that this cultural intolerance is one consideration in for accepting transgender troops.In some countries, being gay is a crime as well//km

"In some countries, the process of becoming transgender, would make them a criminal in that country. And there are some pretty horrific sentences," she said.

There is also the issue of the medical commitments, including psychological treatment, hormone therapy and surgery.

"The other question is, how proactive is the person in that process?" Howard continued. "Just like any medical condition where someone needs a lot of medical help because they are working through the process. Then that might [impact] their ability to be worldwide deployable."

Howard did not come down for or against, but said it's a conversation that will go on at a higher level.

"I think we will probably end up starting this conversation underneath the secretary of defense, but much like the other conversations, iIt will probably not unfold quickly," she said. "It will probably take us some time to work our way through it."

MCPON offered that, to him, the situation isn't wasn't any easier or more difficult than any other issues he has had worked through.

"My take is that we need to get together as leaders and we need to have the conversation, and we need to figure out how to best proceed so we can provide all of our sailors with the opportunities I just talked about," he said.

He added that he hasn't been asked about it at all-hands calls, but he is ready to discuss it. prepared to have the conversation.

"So whatever comes to us, we will do our very best to work through that in a comprehensive and appropriate way, and darn it, we will treat everybody that has blood running through their veins with dignity and respect." he said.

Staff writers David Larter and Mark D. Faram contributed to this report.

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.

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