“Midshipmen are persons of integrity: They stand for that which is right.
They tell the truth and ensure that the full truth is known. They do not lie.
They embrace fairness in all actions. They ensure that work submitted as their own is their own, and that assistance received from any source is authorized and properly documented. They do not cheat.
They respect the property of others and ensure that others are able to benefit from the use of their own property. They do not steal.”
Words of guidance and inspiration. An ethos and a personal challenge embraced by the very best this nation has to offer that have gone to war against America’s enemies. A creed that any parent who values the concepts of honor and service would be rightfully proud to have a son or daughter commit to.
Yet, there are again noisome murmurs from those who hold the institutions of the US Navy and the United States Naval Academy dear that this Code of Honor has been violated. It is not as if the shadow of scandal has not darkened the grounds along the Severn before. There have been acts of misconduct by Midshipmen and by Staff on many occasions before. Some of those acts have been criminal, and have brought dishonor upon the perpetrators, and on the Academy. They were, however, largely acts by individuals or groups of Midshipmen or staff that deserved and received punishment and/or expulsion as appropriate.
Of late, however, the murmurs have reached shouted crescendo. The reason for that goes far beyond the deeds of sometimes unworthy Midshipmen whom the process of training and evaluation at the US Naval Academy theoretically winnows from its ranks. The voices raised loudly in objection are directed at the one absolutely indispensable aspect of the Naval Academy that is supposed to distinguish that institution from other places of higher education.
That indispensable aspect is the Naval Academy leadership. These are Commissioned Officers in the United States Navy and Marine Corps, whose responsibilities it is to teach, guide, mentor, evaluate, and serve as an example for the future Officers from whose ranks, as was so eloquently stated, “come the great Captains who hold the Nation’s destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds”. And that leadership has again failed miserably. In doing so, they have forfeited their credibility. For those who take their responsibilities of leadership seriously, this might seem unfair to hear. But it is axiomatic that one’s reputation is defines in large measure by the company kept.
Rather than presenting an example of leadership and an embodiment of the Honor Code, those entrusted with the shaping of Naval Officers at the US Naval Academy have proven unworthy of the young men and women they are purported to lead. They themselves cannot be said to live by the Honor Code that is the benchmark of their charges. That leadership has consistently failed to display the integrity that is supposedly expected of the Midshipmen. That leadership chooses the expedient and advantageous over that which is right, and over the truth. Fairness is pushed aside for political correctness. Tolerance of cheating and of drug use has been deemed acceptable. And such actions, sanctioned officially or unofficially, make a mockery of that Honor Code.
Fairness is incompatible with a double-standard for admissions on the grounds of “diversity” or any other grounds. Yet, it is not only condoned, but encouraged. The resulting “diversity” is proudly touted, but the methods by which such is accomplished are carefully hidden behind closed doors. To expose the double standard to widespread scrutiny would invite the scorn which it deserves. Fairness indeed.
The racial discrimination against two USNA Color Guard Midshipmen this past autumn was exponentially compounded by repeated attempts to rationalize such despicable action to the Midshipmen and the public by senior leadership, including the Superintendent of USNA and the Commandant of Midshipmen. Trouble is, not only were the actions themselves shameful and indefensible, and displayed horrendous judgment and/or lack of backbone, but later remarks by those Officers regarding the incident were extremely difficult to believe, and seemed intentionally obfuscating. So much for integrity.
Now comes the tale of the varsity football player, who has a history of honors violations and enough demerits to fill a seabag, who fails a drug test. His test detected levels of THC, the residue of marijuana usage. Fail a drug test, the Academy’s rules say, and you’re out. Zero tolerance. Ask any Navy Officer or enlisted Sailor, they live by the same rules. So, this miscreant Midshipman, a star halfback on a Division I football team, is gone. It is a shame, as he had a chance that others would give their arms and legs for. And he blew it. He tells the Superintendent that he didn’t know he was smoking pot, that it was in a cigar or some such unlikely tall tale. The Superintendent, Vice Admiral Fowler, must have been furious. Right? The gall of that Middie, insulting the good Admiral’s intelligence like that. He must be out on the express train.
Not so fast. This Midshipman, a 3/c, has been retained. It seems that Vice Admiral Fowler decided to buy the Midshipman’s story of unknowingly ingesting enough marijuana to register positive on a drug test. In defense of this flabbergasting decision, from “spokesman” Joe Carpenter we get this incomprehensible drivel offered as justification:
“This does not mean that there is a policy of mandatory separation — only that the service member be processed for separation. However, the Navy’s illegal drug policy requires the commander to ascertain if a service member knowingly consumed an illegal drug. This aspect is one of several issues that must be established for the commander to determine if the Navy’s drug use policy was violated by a service member.”
This Midshipman, with a history of conduct that proves he cannot be trusted, is being “believed” by the senior Officer at Annapolis, while telling a tale that a brand new Second Lieutenant or Ensign wouldn’t fall for. In doing so, Vice Admiral Fowler overruled virtually every recommendation from this young man’s seniors. This Midshipman is a minority. Did skin color play a part? I would hope not. But judging from the track record of Admiral Fowler et al, it certainly seems possible. He is a minority in another way. He can run off tackle and score against a Division I defense. Which helps to propel a financially profitable football program to national prominence. Did that have anything to do with the decision? You would have to ask the Admiral. But you should believe what he says at your own peril. And, as in the case of the Color Guard scandal, Midshipmen are being leaned on to keep mouths shut regarding the football player’s positive drug test and the decision to retain. Whether such leaning is justified or not is impossible to tell. The credibility of the Officers insisting on the Annapolis Omerta is in tatters.
Though I would be proud to have a son or daughter commit to the Honor Code and to the culture of service and discipline that represents the best of the US Naval Academy, I would not desire to have that son or daughter in such a “leadership” climate so fermented, discriminatory, politically motivated, dishonest, and lacking in courage as this one. Indeed, I would have grave reservations about that son or daughter serving under an Officer who was shaped by that climate.
So the crescendo of shouted voices over such events at the US Naval Academy is not without warrant. There is a rotten, pervasive failure of leadership at Annapolis. And it begins at the top. Though, regrettably, such a failure is fostered by Navy leadership farther upstream. Vice Admiral Fowler should have been relieved of his duties after the shame of the USNA Color Guard fiasco. He wasn’t. The reason he wasn’t is that his actions and decisions are part and parcel of the ugly business end of pushing forward the CNO’s priority of “diversity”. The Superintendent and the CNO have repeatedly decided against doing what is right in favor of doing what is politically advantageous. It is a line, once crossed, that is increasingly easy to rationalize crossing. That is the symptom of the epidemic of political correctness brainwashing that has eroded our confidence, our readiness, and our security across DoD. And it needs to end.
There are those who will question the grounds on which I am qualified to make such assertions. I am an Officer, a combat veteran, a citizen, and a taxpayer. For what it’s worth, similar opinions are legion among those observers of these events who have served in, or are still serving in, the US Navy and Marine Corps. They are citizens and taxpayers, too. More importantly, though my children mentioned here are hypothetical, theirs aren’t. They, and the rest of the American people, are the parents of the next generation of the US Navy’s leadership and of its bluejackets.
That, Vice Admiral Fowler, Admiral Roughead, and Secretary Mabus, should give pause to each of you. The future of the United States Navy, and the security of our great nation, rides on the very shoulders of those whom your failures have affected most. The Honor Code starts with you, the Navy’s and Academy’s senior leadership. The Honor Code should be the watchwords of a Navy whose first and overwhelmingly most important goal is to be ready to fight and win our nation’s wars. A Navy whose Officer leadership and quality of the Sailors on its deckplates have achieved “diversity” based on merit and skill, not through forcing through unfair, politically-driven, and discriminatory measures based on skin color, gender, or enthnicity, or a time clocked in a 40-yard dash.