Anchors Away for USNA Class of '93


Tomorrow is Graduation Day at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. The men and women of the Class of 1993 have just finished what is without question the most rigorous intellectual, emotional and physical education in the country; they and their families have earned the right to celebrate and take pride in this moment.

But the graduates should also be aware that far more difficult tasks lie ahead. They will be responsible for leading the Navy as it is remodeled to fit its new post-Cold War role and forced to grapple with social changes, including the status of women and gays in the military. And they will be responsible for fixing the problems that have so damaged the Navy's credibility in the last year.

The Tailhook sex scandal continues to tarnish the Navy's reputation. The abominable behavior of male officers toward their female colleagues at the Tailhook convention has not only dishonored the Navy, it has left many Americans cynical about the military in general. The scandal has even cast its shadow over this week's graduation. The Blue Angels, the Navy precision flying team that has entertained at every Commissioning Week since 1946, didn't participate. The team has been grounded; one of its key fliers was ordered to shore duty for questioning in the Tailhook investigation.

Because of Tailhook, the academy itself has come under closer scrutiny. Tailhook resurrected memories of Midshipman Gwen Dreyer, who was handcuffed to a urinal in a 1989 hazing incident. Then a series of foolish high-jinks -- a pillow fight that got out of hand, an alleged sexual assault -- made recent headlines. Minor incidents, but they fit the Tailhook pattern.

It was a bad year for the Naval Academy in other ways, too. There was the tragic suicide of Midshipman 3rd Class Gil Greene. Then the biggest academic cheating scandal in 20 years further corroded the image of the Navy as an honorable institution. The controversy intensified recently when an investigation by Sun reporter JoAnna Daemmrich revealed that some of the guilty in the cheating scandal got away without punishment due to loopholes in the student Honor System.

We ordinary citizens have but a passing curiosity in tomorrow's colorful graduation ceremonies. Yet we have a stake -- a big stake -- in whether the academy's Class of 1993 succeeds in the years to come. The strength and honor of the Navy rests in the hands of these men and women. We wish them well, for our sake as well as theirs.

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