SPEAKOUT

The Baltimore Sun

LAST WEEK'S ISSUE: -- At Navy away games, with the exception of the Army-Navy and Notre Dame contests, a raucous band of cheering Mids, clad in white, will no longer fill the stands. Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler has ended the practice of offering midshipmen special incentives, including travel reimbursements in some cases, to attend out-of-town football games.

Capt. Margaret Klein, the commandant, said some activities must be reduced to allow midshipmen to fulfill their military obligations.

Should the academy make a priority of helping Mids attend out-of-town football games?

A chance to meet the midshipmen

I think they should attend games. As a loyal fan and supporter of Rutgers, we always enjoy the games against the military academies and the opportunity to talk with midshipmen and cadets as they walk through our tailgating areas. We are proud of our military and look forward to thanking these young people for serving our country. We like having them in the stands cheering for their team.

Removing their presence from the athletic events is shortsighted, selfish and wrong. Please don't take that away from America.

Jane Luther-Umstadter Brielle, N.J.

An expression of commitment

The Mids should be going to football games. It shows camaraderie, support of the team and the academy and the commitment these incredible men and women have made, especially in time of war.

Seeing them in the stands, cheering especially "I Believe We Will Win" with the incredible backing for the past supe was wonderful.

We as a nation need to see outward support and that was an obvious one that is sadly missed.

Kathy Tuck Pismo Beach, CA

The writer is the parent of a 2007 academy graduate.

Raising visibility of the academy

Midshipmen should be offered incentives to attend away football games, depending on the distance to travel. As I understand it, they can go to the away games if they have a way to get there and they are on liberty.

This is a great loss in the PR department. The presence of midshipmen in the stands makes the academy very visible, and it needs that.

We will be at the Rutgers game this Friday night , and there will be no midshipmen there except the drum and bugle corps and the cheerleaders. Who are they going to lead in cheering?

Liberty does not start until after evening meal, so no one can get there from Annapolis in time for the game - and this is a sold-out game.

Mary K. Duff Scotch Plains, N.J.

Allow them to travel

As a parent of a midshipman, I am responding to your question. Should the academy make it a priority? No, and I don't think anyone is saying that they should. But if midshipmen would like to go and are in good standing within their class, they should be allowed to go to the away games.

It was very discouraging to see so few midshipmen on TV for the game vs. Temple. These are times for the Naval Academy to shine in the public view, and I think it was lost. Midshipmen in the stands are the 12th man on the field.

John Cole Buford, Ga.

Bad example of leadership

This will be the first lesson in their careers: how not to motivate the people they will lead into battle and how not to lead. I think the saying, "The beatings will continue until morale improves" came from the Navy, and this is an example of why.

This will also divide the middies as some groups - football, basketball and lacrosse players, will be allowed to leave the Yard for away games while others will have to stay and endure the rigors of preparing to fight a war.

Give me an example of where, in the history of the Naval Academy, the men and women who have graduated have not been prepared to go to battle. Most of that kind of preparedness comes from the fleet, not from college textbooks anyway. At the academy they should learn how to become great naval officers. Teach them how to be leaders at the academy. The fleet teaches them how to fight the machines they will employ out in the world to win wars.

If the military thinks they have a hard time recruiting and keeping good men and women now, wait until word of this spreads throughout the high schools. Having three kids that age now, I know what a bad reputation the academies have already for recruitment.

Good luck Navy. BEAT ARMY!

Cmdr. John Burge Rushville, Ohio

The writer is in the Navy Reserve.

Police changes strongly supported

I am the parent of a Naval Academy midshipman. I first heard of the changes and some of the initial fallout from other parents of midshipmen. I was skeptical because there is a certain amount of latent hysteria among a small but noisy percentage of midshipmen parents who, among other social problems, have trouble coming to grips with the maturation of their children.

After reading the public statements of the new administration, it was clear to me that they are correct in their assessment of current state of the academy and are right on track to make changes necessary to accomplish its mission.

Therefore I wholeheartedly support the changes in policies currently being implemented. We are a nation at war with the most cynical enemy this great nation has ever known. Our future military officers will be expected to know how to lead our soldiers, sailors and airmen in combat. There will be no on-the-job training. I, for one, want my son to know how to perform that task before he arrives on station.

If that goal requires tightening policies at the Naval Academy, I am all for it. My son has already told me that he and his shipmates agree with the need. I do not intend to second-guess the professional administrators at the USNA. And it remains for the noisy minority to rethink their self-serving positions and get on board with reality.

Rodd Browne Fernandina Beach, Fla.

Influence of TV, money

According to the new superintendent, midshipmen can no longer attend sporting events that are considered "distractions," the stated exceptions being the Army-Navy and Notre Dame football games.

Are these two games not considered distractions because they are more important than the war on terror, or does it have to do with TV revenue?

How can the war on terror trump every sporting event but two? Follow the money.

Marc Povondra Jacksonville, Fla.

Poor treatment of young leaders

We were a nation at war in 1942, and midshipmen were given liberty to attend games. This current cohort of midshipmen volunteered to serve our country during a time of war, and for many they will be commissioned and lead sailors and marines into battle in just a few months.

Why are they not being allowed the same liberties that midshipmen were during the Korean and Vietnam wars?

If the Naval Academy is to recruit and retain America's best and brightest to serve our country, they must be treated as if they are our best and brightest. To unilaterally treat them otherwise is arbitrary and capricious.

Most of these fine men and women had their choice of educational institutions to attend. It is impossible to determine how many potential midshipmen will no longer consider the Naval Academy because of the present treatment of the members of the Brigade.

If a single Midshipman decides at the start of his or her Junior year to voluntarily separate from the Naval Academy as a result of these "our nation is at war" policies, the terrorists have won and Adm. Fowler has failed his charge.

T. Selles Seattle, Wash.

Mids deserve a game break

Yes! Mids should go to the games. What great PR for the Navy as well as a much deserved break for the Mids.

Dianne Webster Palo Alto, Calif.

A worthwhile use of money

The midshipmen/women need a break, and it also shows support for the team. Please keep paying for their trips.

With all the waste of money in Washington on pork projects, I would think that you could get your senator to appropriate some money for our future servicemen and women.

Marian King Carteret, N.J.

Games should not be priority

Should the academy make a priority of helping Mids attend out-of-town football games? No - we couldn't even go and didn't have the time anyway.

Mitch Henderson Annapolis

The writer is a member of the academy's Class of 1965.

Disappointing development

I am appalled at many of the new changes put in place at my alma mater, but this one is very disappointing.

Nothing builds "esprit de corps" for the midshipmen like Navy football games, and those good-deal trips give Mids the most precious of opportunities to get away from the grind for a weekend and support their team.

Alumni and fans all over the world go to great lengths to see Navy football on television. I assure you, nothing would disappoint me more than to tune in on my premium sports channel and watch a Navy game without a single set of summer whites in the crowd.

I'm reminded of the Padres series with the Red Sox in San Diego this June, when local reporters were in an uproar because there were more Boston fans in the crowd than home team supporters. Wouldn't you want your team's fans to cause an uproar on someone else's home turf?

Give them a break - their teams need their support and they'll have 5 years after graduation to fulfill their "military obligations."

Navy Lt. Christopher Moore San Diego, Calif.

Stick with the mission

The Naval Academy is a military school for training officers, not a liberal arts college. Each midshipman is in the Navy from the very first day. They are paid to be there.

If it can be explained to me how attending away football games is part of the training to be an officer in the Navy or Marine Corps, I would support them going to the games. Until then, as a taxpayer contributing to the $385,000 it takes to turn a mid into an ensign or second lieutenant, I want my money spent on things closely associated with the primary mission of the academy.

John Ellingson Madison, Wisc.

No travel with taxpayer money

Your question does not indicate whether this reimbursement would come from public or private funding. As a Naval Academy graduate, career naval officer, and lifelong taxpayer, the answer is pretty clear to me: No, the Naval Academy should not use taxpayer dollars to reimburse midshipmen for voluntary travel to football games.

Where midshipmen are moved, under orders, to represent the academy officially, they will of course be funded appropriately. This is consistent with rules elsewhere in the military. Taxpayer dollars are not meant for unofficial purposes.

My personal view with regard to voluntary travel is no different for private/alumni contributions, but if the Naval Academy Alumni Association decides to reimburse midshipmen, consistent with academy policy, that is the association's business. Go Navy!

David Williams Orange Park, Fla.

Do you think they're studying?

I was in attendance at the Navy-Temple game last Friday night and was personally embarrassed by the lack of midshipmen in the stands. Come on, it's a Friday night, two hours from the Academy, and only 73 Midshipmen show up. Do you really think the other 3,927 were studying or watching the game on ESPNU?

Dan Truax, CAPT USN(Ret.) Annapolis

The writer is a member of the academy's Class of 1959.

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