Ben Carson on military: 'Deal with the transgender thing somewhere else'

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WATERLOO, Iowa -- Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson told veterans at a town hall here Saturday that while he would never deny qualified women from combat positions, he doesn't appreciate "using our military as a laboratory for social experimentation."

"You know, we have too many important things to do," Carson said at a "Veterans and Military Town Hall" hosted by the Concerned Veterans for America. "When our men and women are out there fighting the enemy, the last thing that we need to be doing is saying what would it be like if we introduced several transgender people into this platoon."

"You know, give me a break. Deal with the transgender thing somewhere else," Carson said before saying he prefers the old "don't ask, don't tell" military philosophy that ended in 2011.

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Ben Carson on military: 'Deal with the transgender thing somewhere else'
MT. AYR, IA - JANUARY 22 : Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is introduced during his 'Trust in God Townhall' campaign stop January 22, 2016 in Mt. Ayr, Iowa. Carson, who is seeking the nomination from the Republican Party is on the presidential campaign trail across Iowa ahead of the Iowa Caucus taking place February 1. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks during a Liberty University Convocation in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. As retired neurosurgeon Carson has risen in the polls, media reports have revisited his accounts of acts of violence as a child, a key part of the redemption story he discusses on the campaign trail. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 06: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks to the media before speaking at a gala for the Black Republican Caucus of South Florida at PGA National Resort on November 6, 2015 in Palm Beach, Florida. Carson has come under media scrutiny for possibly exaggerating his background and other statements he has made recently. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 16: Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson (L) eats a piece of pizza while touring the Iowa State Fair on August 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. Presidential candidates are addressing attendees at the Iowa State Fair on the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox stage and touring the fairgrounds. The State Fair runs through August 23. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - OCTOBER 29: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks during a news conference before a campaign event at Colorado Christian University on October 29, 2015 in Lakewood, Colorado. Ben Carson was back on the campaign trail a day after the third republican debate held at the University of Colorado Boulder. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25: Scenes around the the Value Voters Summit on September 25, 2015 in Washington DC. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson takes the stage at the event. Dr Carson speaks to the media after the speach. (Photos by Charles Ommanney/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Attendees wait for Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, not pictured, to arrive during a campaign stop at the birthplace of the Michigan Republican Party in Jackson, Michigan, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. Carson, the third candidate in the Republican race to have never held elected office, saw his numbers drop following the debate last week. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, listens as he attends a service at Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. Carson will be speaking at the Iowa State Fair, which is expected to host 18 presidential candidates and runs until Aug. 23. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson participates in the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, eats a slice of pizza as he tours the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. In a Sunday interview with Fox News, Carson doubled down on his assertion that a speech given by President Barack Obama intended to sell the American public on his nuclear deal with Iran contained 'coded innuendos employing standard anti-Semitic themes.' Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Enacted under President Bill Clinton in 1993, "don't ask, don't tell" prevented gays from serving openly in the military.

The retired neurosurgeon's comments come as a Pentagon-imposed deadline nears for the armed services to figure out the logistics of how to incorporate transgender troops into the military.

Though the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" cleared the way for gay, lesbian and bisexual troops to serve openly, an estimated 15,000 transgender troops continue to keep their gender identities hidden for fear of being discharged.

In July, Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered the creation of a Pentagon working group "to study over the next six months the policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly."

"I mean, why do you have to go around flouting your sexuality? It's not necessary, you don't need to talk about that, we need to talk about how we eliminate the enemy," Carson said at the town hall.

Pivoting back to the original question of his opinion on the recent policy shift announced last week by Carter that opens all combat jobs to women, Carson gave tepid support.

"All the success I've had in life is because of women, so I am never going to say 'no' to women, I'm not," Carson said. However, he said he would be "very frightened" if there were a lowering of standards.

"If women can meet those standards, and they want to meet those standards and they want to do that, then I would never deny them," Carson said.

Carson added, "But, you know, what woman wants to go out on the front line in the dirt and the slime fighting — I mean if they want to do it and they're capable, no problem."

"If you can't lift, you know, a 175 pound person on your shoulder and hoist them out of there, then If I'm out there, I don't want you as my backup," Carson said.

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