I was able to have a conversation with Jonathan Hutto this evening about the original Appeal for Redress. I spent a good 30 minutes on the phone and was able to get a feel for some of what they did. He is also sending a copy of his book and I hope to have it before convention.
In regards to confidentiality – They set the website up and used that as the main source of active duty members signing. No one outside of the webmaster (who did the task pro bono) and congress men and women knew the names of those who had signed. Jonathan knew only the numbers and had the numbers broken down into areas and bases as well as totals.
In regards to set goals of numbers – When they started they did not have a set goal for the number of signatures that they were looking for. When they went public, to the best of his knowledge, they had around 600 signatures. One point that he made very clear was that the numbers are not the most important part, but having the interest and support from active duty members shows that there is an issue that needs to be addressed.
When asked about pushback from active duty members or supporters Jonathan stated that in his experience there were no issues. The PAO (Public Affairs Officer) of the ship did however sit him down and explain the Navy’s stance that as long as he was off duty, out of uniform, and not on base, he could say and do what he wanted. This was in contrast with two other supporters; one faced minimal pushback from the command in an informal manner while the second faced formal reprisal. Making the point that strong ties with the GI rights hotline is an important and needed step to have in place prior to going public.
The last question centered around how he felt they did at accomplishing their goal and if any changes could have been made what would they be. in light of these questions Jonathan felt that the process as a whole went well and he was pleased with the results. One thing that he would change was how they implemented the process. Starting as a task force initiative they did not have the proper backing to create an institutionalized basis for continued work. Set as a moving model there was no infrastructure in place for them to start setting up actual spaces for continued organizing. Having a space that can be set up as a base for advocacy and continued training for active duty members and helping transition from active to veteran would have been a long range goal. The focus was on enlisted members and they did not target officers at all. From talking with Jonathan, this still seems to be the basis of how he would move forward but with an understanding that officers may also be included and targeted but in a lesser extent.