“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.

Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Marine Corps, Navy, Training & Education

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  • Ronda Callahan

    This is absolutely shameful! Shame on you Admiral Fowler! Does becoming an Admiral exempt you from the Navy’s code? HONOR, courage, and commitment. What happened to the high standards the Navy is SUPPOSED to uphold?

    Be aware, Sir, This story is getting out. People are not liking what they’re hearing. Our Navy is a PROUD and HONORED branch of our military and those allowing that tradition to be desecrated are not living by the code.

    Prayers be with the members who ARE following the code, it appears they will need the extra help from above since they obviously won’t be getting it from those in charge.

    People are becoming aware that other midshipmen who voice their disagreement with these types of decisions are being punished for it, and people are not liking the fact that the HONORable ones get punished while the disHONORable ones are reaping rewards.

    Shame on all of you allowing it to happen.
    Semper For

  • Charley Armstrong

    Some people are more equal than others when football is concerned. Somehow I suspect that a star Water Polo player would not be afforded the same outcome.

  • Susan Anderson

    It truly saddens me that an insitution I was raised to respect (the USNA) garners none anymore.

  • Bill Johnson

    I’m not a Naval Academy graduate, but I am a retired Navy Captain, and I am “shocked and awed” by the mis-application of some violently circuitous logic that somehow resulted in smart people deciding that a confirmed drug bust was OK. It is not. The slope on which this puts the officer corps, and thus the entire service, is both slippery and veritical.

  • sid

    What about the SN at mast somewhere today?

    Say, he’s a good kid, and an otherwise solid performer. Somebody you’re glad to have in the crew.

    Will he get to stay?

  • Michael Henry

    The good news is that the rot appears
    to be be limited to the Naval Academy.
    It has not surfaced in the NROTC which
    has had the largest number of Midshipmen and
    produced the largest number of Regular officers
    for the last half century. In terms of cost;
    quality of education; moral and ethical environment;
    and modern military career preparation the
    NROTC has very impressive credentials.

  • Derrick

    Drug use is unacceptable. The fact that the proceeds raised by the use of illegal narcotics directly finances terrorism (ie Al Qaeda) almost suggests that users of illegal narcotics could be charged with treason.

  • Jerry

    I had a good Sailor who popped postive with THC and I began to process him out. He begged me with tears in his eyes to let him stay, telling me that he did not know that the brownies he had at a party had stuff in them (brownies?, we didn’t bake brownies with anything but chocolate and suger in them on the farm) but then the woman who hosted the party came in and swore that she baked the brownies and he didn’t know, so….I arranged for a lie detector test to be administered by NCIS. He didn’t fail, but he didn’t pass. He was hiding something, the investigator told me. I reluctantly put the Sailor out of the side and out of my Navy. I could not let there be a question among my ranks as to what my policy was. I cannot help but think of that strong performing Sailor today. I think the Academy is doing something wrong here.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    @ Michael Henry,

    Like other opportune and virulent diseases, “diversity” has indeed metastasized into NROTC.


    h/t salamander, in case you couldn’t tell.

  • YNSN

    I’ve processed probably a dozen or so mast packages for pot use. Everyone one of them was discharged. It never was even asked if they “knowingly” smoked pot. Because, it didn’t matter. Zero Tolerance. One of the packages, was for a CS3 who was just accepted to the USNA. Rather than going there, we sent him packing home.

    Should he be allowed back in? With the standards being maintained as I see them, yes.

  • Andy (JADAA)

    The ROTC issues came up over a decade ago when I was doing NROTC scholarship candidate interviews in the region where I lived. In communications with the NRD Officer Accessions personnel I worked with I was told point blank that the Navy very much scored certain ethnic groups and one gender higher than another. We only half joking said that if we had a candidate who didn’t meet those recruiting priorities they’d better be a straight A+ student with National Honor Society, multiple sports letters and preferably a Noble Prize nomination.

    Like Bill, USNA was not my commissioning source but I worked alongside of them for 30 years. In my experience they broke two ways: Incredibly great people to work with and for, real joys to be around; the others were conniving, manipulative and willing to do in anyone between them and their next promotion. No in-between. One of the “good guys” explained it to me that the “black hats” had been made that way by a system that even back then played preferences within the Brigade and other games and they’d simply learned that, for them, the “jungle rules” were the only way to survive. Seems like the games continue.


  • Fouled Anchor

    I’ve pretty well always been critical of our officer corps. In many ways it’s a friendly, healthy rivalry with the wardroom. There are Naval Academy graduates among my circle of friends, mentors, and proteges. I grew up near West Point and always respected the academies and even considered seeking an appointment to the USNA. As a Sailor and citizen, I have enjoyed visiting The Yard, often driving an hour or more just to take in the history, beauty, and majesty of the place, and the town it calls home.

    News of yet another scandal, on top of those from last year, has left me somewhere between angy and disappointed. A feeling akin to finding out that your childhood hero was never, or is no longer, the person you always thought them to be. Some mixture of disgust and disillusionment.

    Whatever the exact feeling is, something needs to change, and it needs to change in a hurry. News of these developments obviously doesn’t stop at the gate. Sailors and Marines hear what’s going on. Continued poor judgement and leadership can, will, and likely have affected morale outside the brigade. These stories reach beyond the officer corps, making Sailors wonder about the institution they serve and the leaders they are sworn to obey.

    It is a damn crying shame what is happening in Annapolis.

  • Byron

    It’s worse than a crying shame, it’s damn near a crime. There’s a desparate need for a change at the helm at the Academy. NAPS had one, just have to wonder if it’s a plus or a minus.

  • FbL

    Infuriating and sad post, but beautifully expressed. I felt like cheering after reading it. Just in my little corner of Navy contacts, I know this is felt very deeply. The anger and disappointment is real, and I suspect there ultimately will be genuine fallout and reform–perhaps the proverbial straw has hit the camel’s back. I certainly hope so…

  • Well done.

  • RickWilmes

    They tell the truth and ensure that the full truth is known. They do not lie.

    URR, we need to talk.

    If you are interested have SWMBO give you my e-mail.

  • John Q Adams

    I assume the Honor Code requires you to abide by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. When someone is charged with a crime under the Uniform Military Code and his being subject to discharge under less than honorable conditions, they are entitled to certain constitutional rights including the presumption of innocence and requirement that the prosecution show knowledge on the part of the accused. None of us heard the facts. Yet so many a willing, without the facts, to condemn. Where is the honor in this?

    John Q. Adams

  • Byron

    Mr. Adams, the proof was in the bottle of urine that the accused offered to the Academy for testing. No other evidence in this case is necessary. Settled “law”, as it were for the Navy and the military. Zero tolerance=zero tolerance, and has been for many years.

    Pretty lame defense.

  • SwitchBlade

    John Q writes of a basic fallacy of understanding the law and criminal procedure. The “presumption of innocence” may be true from the judge and jury’s standpoint – but not from law enforcement or the prosecutor’s. If someone is standing in front of a judge (and maybe jury, but not in this case) there is evidence that you’ve committed a crime and it will be the defenses task to prove otherwise, or in this case provide some sort of extenuating explanation. “I didn’t know I was breaking the law” is seldom exculpatory – but apparently was in this case.

    Kudos to Andy (JADAA)- my experience also. Academy Grads are either good or not, there is rarely middle ground.

  • ASM

    Truly a powerful piece. I’m not familiar with this case, but as a former Honor Chairman at USNA I know this: the Honor Concept is a living, breathing ethos that is only as strong as the hearts of the Midshipmen (and their Officer and Sailor instructors/mentors) that must practice it daily…

    The bad news is matters like this weaken the heart of the 99.99% of those Mids that do the right thing and walk with honor daily (to say nothing of the fact that a section of our nation’s sailors might one day have to serve alongside an officer not worthy of them). The good news is that Annapolis will move forward – it always does – and continue to produce quality officers to serve and fight in this war.

  • ASM

    I should add…Annapolis will move forward, if and only if the issues brought up in this piece are addressed, corrected and the leadership’s azimuth checked.

  • Joe Gish

    Why the outrage with the Superintendent? He’s just dutifully following the CNO’s directive about diversity being the priority at USNA. Not honor. Not academics. Not minting warriors. And if that’s the priority, those other things should suffer.

  • eastriver

    URR: Exceptionally well written / spoken. If the test was second-checked and confirmed, for the good of the service and the benefit of all that came before and will follow, he’s gotta go. Anyone questioning that should probably work elsewhere.


    While the navy’s policy does not require separation for drug use, the guidance on drug use from every CNO since ADM Hayward (at least that I can remember) has been pretty clear.
    “Not in my Navy!”
    Not just separate (which is easy) but seek an OTH discharge (which is harder, including admin boards and other things).

    I had a CPO pop positive two weeks before he retired after 24 years of service. We op-held him and tossed him with an OTH. It sucked but if you don’t want to make the tough calls, you shouldn’t be there.

    To John Q. Adams, separating someone is an administrative and not criminal action, so there is no “presumption of innocence and requirement that the prosecution show knowledge on the part of the accused”. Even in the case of a Court Marial or non-judicial punishment, the only requirement is to show that the chain of custody of the sample was maintained properly, which if it wasn’t, it never would have even made it to the Superintendent because it would have been tossed.

    Just as a note, since I saw several of these cases as both a senior member of an admin board and at mast, the navy sets the allowable limits of THC in the sample so high that, unless you are a habitual user, you will no longer pop positive 24-48 hours after usage. It is impossible to pop positive from being in the same room with second hand smoke, drinking it, or eating it. So this was most probably not the first time, just the first time he got caught.

  • Michael L. Cecere III

    The Honor Concept used to be very simple:

    ‘A midshipman will not lie, cheat or steal.’ PERIOD

  • NineLives

    I remember having to sign a form on Day 1 at USNA questioning whether I have smoked pot or not, then signing the form saying I would never do so again. I said to myself, “Self, did this Mid ever sign this form?” If so was he honest? Doubtedly, but it is possible. If he did, and was honest, would that mean that he knew what he was doing in the first place? Guilty of lying anyone? Not to play Super-Sleuth or anything, but I think that that would be one of the first things I would look for in determining if he truly didn’t know what he was smoking.

    Again, zero tolerance (should) = zero tolerance. I remember a guy getting kicked out for drugs my plebe year, an athlete and a legacy. His defense: too intoxicated at a party and didn’t know that he had snorted some stuff… Not his fault right? Didn’t know? Gone-zo. Zero tolerance… (the next semester 0-0-1-3 was unleashed, so the “too drunk” excuse may have flown then but no dice). Three years later this happens, and no consistency. The Navy and Marine Corps, and the nation for that matter, have their eyes focused intensley on us and how we are preparing and teaching our future leaders. I’m not only concerned about what this situation has taught the Brigade, but I am concerned about what impression the fleet will have for it’s new leaders in May 2010.

    Look at the bright side: he has not made it to his two-for-seven signing yet; it is not too late to make an honorable decision to do what should have been done.