FAYETTEVILLE, NC — The Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses (ABOS) did an about-face Thursday, inviting Amy Broadway, a lesbian spouse, to become a full member.
Broadway, who is married to Lt. Col. Heather Marshall of Fort Bragg's First Theater Sustainable Command, applied for membership last month, but was denied because, as a same-sex spouse, she was not eligible for a spouse's ID card.
Mrs. Colonel Leslie Drinkwine, Brigade Commander of the ABOS Board of Directors, explained to Duffel Blog that ABOS bylaws required a valid military ID. However, Defense Department policy does not currently recognize spouses of gay or lesbian service members.
According to Mrs. Colonel Drinkwine, the organization is distinct from the US Army's command-sanctioned Family Readiness Groups, or FRGs. The club was founded in 2010 by Mrs. Colonel Drinkwine, after she was banned from participating in official Fort Bragg FRG events in the wake of a 15-6 investigation into her activities as the FRG leader in the 4th Brigade Combat Team-82nd Airborne Division.
Said Mrs. Colonel Drinkwine, "Like our husbands' units at Fort Bragg, the Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses is an elite organization. Most spouses simply cannot handle the petty drama of just one FRG. We've taken that to an entirely new level."
In order to qualify for the organization, applicants must complete five qualifying, "high-performance" events before becoming full members. These events range from quilt-making to spouses' coffees. As part of their five qualifying events, applicants must also complete one nighttime gossip session.
Mrs. General Keisha Williams, ABOS Parliamentarian, further explained the ABOS' rigorous selection process. "The Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses takes pride in the fact that we have the highest standards of any spouses' club in the US Army. In fact, we won't even look at an application from an enlisted spouse."
Volunteer Coordinator Mrs. Major Irene Johnson, who was very clear in pointing out that her husband was the S-3 of the 2-325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, addressed criticism that ABOS members should just "get a job".
"Get a job? Running murder mystery night, working four hours a day at Buy N' Bragg? The Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses is a full-time job...the toughest job in the Army!"
When Broadway's application was rebuffed this past December, it sparked a flurry of criticism.
But Mrs. Major Johnson defended the ABOS' actions.
"Gay couples simply are not covered in our SOP," said Mrs. Major Johnson, referring to her tabbed and highlighted copy of Routledge's Manual of Etiquette. "We simply didn't know what to do, so we graciously extended her a prestigious 'Special Guest Membership'."
The club — or rather, a self-selected clique of some twenty women — came under withering criticism in the aftermath, which was made all the more embarrassing when Broadway was named "Fort Bragg Spouse of the Year" by Military Spouse Magazine.
After learning that her application for membership was accepted, Broadway was elated.
"I'm proud that same-sex officers' spouses now have the right to participate in the same activities as straight officers' spouses — bake sales, gossiping, and of course, threatening enlisted spouses into submission at the gym".
"You do know who my wife is?," asked Broadway.