Friday, July 14, 2006

SBDs Over Midway

USNA At Large,
  This photo is from the Sixth Scale collection. You can find a link to them at Links to Photos and Art.
    Fly Navy! John Howland

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Running Scared

Post of Monday, 10 July,
USNA At Large, lots more summer fun begins this morning, keep your seatbelts fastened -- we are going to be getting lots of media exposure -- not going to be good, for core combat leadership, John Howland

Courts-martial cast spotlight on sexual abuse at Naval Academy

WASHINGTON --Three courts-martial over sex-related crimes at the Naval Academy -- including rape charges against the football team's star quarterback -- are set for this summer, as the school remains under pressure to reduce sexual assaults.
Lamar Owens Jr., who led the Navy football team to an 8-4 record last fall, faces court-martial Monday at the Washington Navy Yard on charges of raping a fellow midshipman in her dorm room in January. Courts-martial are set for later this summer against another football player accused of indecent assault and an instructor who is accused of making crude sexual comments to a female student.
In contrast with these three cases, the Annapolis, Md., school held only one court-martial for a sexual offense from 1994 to 2004, according to a Pentagon report released last year.
However, the academy and the nation's other public military schools have been under scrutiny since allegations of sexual assault arose at the Air Force Academy in 2003. On June 28, a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., was sentenced to six months in a military prison after being convicted of sex-related crimes, although he was acquitted of rape.
Some victims rights' groups say the cases show that the school, which was criticized in the Pentagon report for not doing enough to curb abuse, is demonstrating that it won't tolerate sexual offenders.
"Once they realize we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment, assault or violence, I anticipate we will see the numbers go down," said Delilah Rumburg, head of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. She co-chaired the task force that wrote the Pentagon report.
However, lawyers for some of the defendants say the increase in cases is driven by political pressure on the academy and its superintendent, Vice Adm. Rodney Rempt.
"Admiral Rempt is running scared," said Charles Gittins, attorney for Lt. Bryan Black, the instructor accused of sexual harassment. "He has been under pressure from the board and feminist organizations."
A spokeswoman for the academy would not comment on the cases.
The academy has struggled with charges of sexual abuse and harassment since it first admitted women in 1976. Women still comprise only about 17 percent of the 4,000 student body, but the numbers are increasing with each class.
The academy includes classes on sexual harassment and abuse prevention in its training beginning with "plebe summer" -- the first session with incoming students. A sexual assault intervention program provides resources for victims.
"I have consistently made clear to all our staff and midshipmen that the Navy does not tolerate sexual harassment, misconduct or sexual assault," Rempt testified last month before a House panel investigating abuse at the military academies.
The Navy can handle cases using administrative methods, which could lead to a midshipman's resignation from the academy, or through a court-martial, where conviction can mean prison time. The academy superintendent decides which method to use.
There have been 41 accusations of sexual assault involving midshipmen since 2001, according to academy statistics released last month. Eight were referred to trial. Two were convicted, one by court-martial last summer, the other in civilian court. Two await trial -- Owens and fellow football player Kenny Ray Morrison. The other four were expelled.
The academy has historically chosen the administrative option, allowing midshipmen to resign, said Anita Sanchez, spokeswoman for the Miles Foundation, which tracks cases of abuse in the military. The fact that some midshipmen are now facing criminal proceedings is encouraging, she said.
"It is hopefully indicative of the fact that the military will be able to provide justice for the victims in these cases," she said.
Attorneys for Owens, Black and Morrison have challenged Rempt's ability to oversee the cases, saying his decisions are swayed by politics, not evidence.
While the academy encourages reporting, there may still be a reluctance among midshipmen to report assaults. During a preliminary hearing for Owens, a friend of the accuser described the difficulty the woman faced over whether to report the incident, saying women who report men at the academy "get crucified" by their peers. src=""

Sunday, July 09, 2006

"If you don't like it, go home!"

USNA At Large,
  Yikes, looks like we are going to have a long hot summer of this stuff!
  For core combat leadership, John Howland
Long Haul to Acceptance
30 Years On, Gains and Trials for Women at Annapolis
By Donna St. George
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 9, 2006; C01
The words were spoken 30 years ago, and yet they are as jarring as they were the day when Sharon Hanley arrived at the U.S. Naval Academy -- 17 years old and about to make history as one of the first female undergraduates.
"I don't like you here," she recalls an upperclassman telling her. "I don't like women at my school, and so I'm going to be on your butt every waking minute. . . . If my plan works, you're going to be long gone before I graduate. Is that clear?"
She remembers her shock and dismay, then her momentary confusion about how to answer. As a plebe, she was not allowed to object or comment.
"Yes, sir," was all she could say.
Now, on the 30th anniversary of the integration of women in the Naval Academy, Sharon Hanley Disher finds herself in history's view again, the first of the earliest female graduates to be followed to Annapolis by a daughter. She watched teary-eyed in the late June heat as her daughter and son, who are twins, stood solemnly in Navy whites for their swearing-in on the campus's tree-lined grounds.
They are part of an academy class that includes a record number of women -- 22.4 percent, compared with 6 percent in the beginning -- and comes together as the country is at war, with women serving on destroyers and in fighter planes.
But though much has improved since women first arrived -- and many female graduates express great loyalty to the storied 161-year-old institution -- a complex and sometimes troubling portrait of student life emerges from three recent studies sponsored by the Defense Department.
The most recent study found that in the 2004-05 school year, 59 percent of female midshipmen and 14 percent of men reported sexual harassment, defined as crude and offensive behavior, unwanted sexual attention or sexual coercion. Sexist behavior -- put-downs and offensive comments -- was reported by 93 percent of women and 50 percent of men.
What the academy experience is like for young women is coming into greater focus as Congress looks into the subject and as the quarterback on the academy's football team faces a court-martial trial starting tomorrow on a charge of raping a female midshipman.
All of this happens as three decades of gender integration are marked this month, with women recalling their unsettling early days in a college dedicated to the making of military men.
"The name of our game was survival," Disher said. The attitude was "boys will be boys and 'You're coming to an all-male school; what did you expect?' " At her home in Annapolis last week, Disher happened upon a C-SPAN broadcast of Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, the academy's superintendent, testifying before Congress.
"Sexual harassment and misconduct and assault should not be tolerated in the Navy-Marine Corps," he said, "and I can assure you that they are not tolerated at your Naval Academy."
To Disher, this was another sign of changed times. "You have to talk about the problem to fix it," she said.
Meagan Varley was 10 when she decided to become a fighter pilot. She had seen the movie "Top Gun" and set her heart on flying. Her father, a teacher, suggested the Naval Academy, and in 1998 she found herself on the Annapolis campus as part of a class that was 16 percent female.
"You're aware that the things you do are going to be watched more closely and that you could be stereotyped more easily," she said. But as time went on, she found that her sex "kind of faded into the background."
Flight school followed graduation, and now, four years later, she is a fighter pilot, having flown F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18F Super Hornets, opportunities not open to the first female graduates. "They really broke the way for the rest of us," she said.
In the early years, women had fewer job choices because, under law, they could not serve on combatant ships or aircraft. Those who did not want women at the academy often complained that they were taking men's slots but could not do men's jobs.
That complaint grew louder in 1979, when Washingtonian magazine published an article, "Women Can't Fight," by James Webb, a much-heralded academy graduate and Marine war hero who is now the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Virginia. He wrote then that the presence of women poisoned the academy's mission and that the academy's massive dormitory was "a horny woman's dream."
"The men went crazy; they loved it," recalled Disher, who wrote a book, "First Class," about women's experiences.
Webb has said recently that the article was published a long time ago and that as secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration he tripled the number of jobs that were open to women and ordered a crackdown on sexual harassment.
An array of jobs opened to women in the early 1990s, and after that, said Georgia Sadler, a retired Navy captain and the academy's first female faculty member, women "didn't feel so much like second-class citizens."
As more women enter the academy -- 273 this year, up from 81 in 1976 -- they have come closer to achieving a "critical mass" that ceases to be seen as a minority, said Mady Wechsler Segal of the Center for Research on Military Organizations at the University of Maryland. She put the tipping point at 25 to 35 percent.
Meghan O'Mara, Class of 2002, was never sexually harassed, but she said she "certainly had people who said inappropriate things" to her.
O'Mara, 26 and honorably discharged from the Navy, said more openness is needed, recalling the time one of her friends reported a rape. Academy officials, she said, "were definitely trying to make her keep quiet about it. . . . I don't think the environment makes a lot of women feel they can come forward and there will be a fair response."
That kind of concern touched off a 2003 scandal at the Air Force Academy, amid revelations of more than 140 reported rapes and sexual assaults over 10 years.
Since then, government studies have looked into harassment and sexual assault at the service academies. A recent Defense Department survey of midshipmen found that more than half of women who said they had been sexually assaulted did not report it. In all, 83 of 652 women -- more than 12 percent -- said they were victims of sexual assault between 1999 and 2004, the report said.
It also noted that women "do not report sexual harassment because they live and deal with it daily; it almost becomes normal. . . . They fear being ostracized and abandoned by their peers, both male and female."
One woman wrote that the academy was "one of the most emotionally devastating places I can imagine. Most of the women came here expecting mental and physical challenges. We thought we'd have to put up with overdoses of testosterone. What we did not expect was to be looked down upon for being women -- to be suddenly less than human in their eyes."
Before Congress, Rempt spoke of efforts to improve training and reporting. He cited an academy survey that found that 5 percent of women believe they would be resented by peers for reporting harassment, down from 50 percent five years ago.
In 2001, surrounded by hundreds of classmates, Candice Sarlese climbed up a lard-slicked granite monument, called Herndon, at the end of her plebe year. It is a tradition, and Sarlese had heard about women being pushed off. For her, it was different. A fellow midshipman turned to her and said, "Don't worry. I'm not going to let you fall."
Sarlese, 25 and now a first lieutenant in the Marines, said she believes some women "look for things. Some guys will make a joke, and they will take it as hurtful."
Over 30 years, relations between women and men have become better and more complex.
Sandee Irwin, part of the first class, recalls the insult of a midshipman two years her junior. "Why are you here, anyway?" he sniped.
Irwin took the young man aside and told him squarely: "You knew we were here when you signed your name on that piece of paper. If you don't like it, go home!"
Disher, the 1976 plebe, recalls blatant hostility after she joined the cheerleading team.
Worst of all was an Army-Navy football pep rally, in her second year on campus, she said. As Disher and the other cheerleaders came bouncing out onstage, the crowd stopped clapping.
"Get off the stage!" she heard. Then boos. "Get out of my school!"
A generation and more than 2,770 female graduates later, Disher had no reservations about sending her twins to the academy, where they will be part of the Class of 2010, with women such as Ashley Houston, 18.
"I think women are just as capable as men," said Chelsea Wright, 18, of Valley Forge, Pa., getting her hair cut to above the collar -- not far from where men were being shorn to the nub -- as she imagined herself on a Navy ship or jet, possibly in combat.
"I'm sure the level of respect has changed" over 30 years, ventured Margaret Boyle, 17, of Leonardtown.
The young man next to her in line nodded in agreement.
"I'd rather have them here than not," said John Howser, 17. "I've grown up with them."
© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

An aggressive reformer of the school's macho culture

USNA At Large,
  Disher strikes again.
  And, of course, the obligatory Manning is trotted out.
  As for the latest Rempt Preempt -- note that he has tuned himself down from the 25% goal to 20%.
    Sorry, Minor, not "moving on," John Howland

For Navy women, sailing has gotten smoother

By Jamie Stiehm and Bradley Olson
Baltimore Sun reporters

July 5, 2006

The young woman was almost there.
After a year of petty treatment and abuse from some men, one of the first 81 women to enter the U.S. Naval Academy was about to reach the top of a greased obelisk that represented the end of an arduous indoctrination process.
By lore, the midshipman who scales the Herndon Monument every year in the prized ritual will be the first admiral of the graduating class. But the woman who had almost made it, climbing on the shoulders of her fellow plebes at the end of their freshman year, was yanked down by some male classmates.
"It was disheartening," said Sharon Hanley Disher, who was among the first women admitted in 1976 and among the first 55 to graduate four years later. "If we had banded together as a team and put the lighter-weight gals at the top, we would have been able to do it faster. But a certain few were not playing that game.
"It was disheartening, but it was also motivating. It was a lot like those people on the first day you got there who told you: 'You're not going to be here when I graduate.' I said, 'Oh, yeah? Watch me.'"
Disher and several other members of that first class said they couldn't remember who was tugged from the pinnacle of the monument, but all remembered it as one of the many insults they would experience during four years at the Annapolis military college. The women entered the school July 6, 1976, after Congress mandated that the traditional male-only policy be scrapped.
Similar changes were under way throughout education: Title IX leveled the playing field for female and male sports programs in public schools and universities. Princeton and Yale, two of the last single-sex Ivy League universities, went coed, along with elite New England colleges such as Williams and Amherst.
But the rigors of breaking the gender barrier at the military college were especially hard on the first women midshipmen.
Hailed as 'heroes'
At their 25th class reunion last year, Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, the superintendent often credited with being an aggressive reformer of the school's macho culture, lauded the first women to wear Naval Academy class rings as "heroes" - a bouquet that brought tears to some eyes.
"That gave us dignity and respect. But for some, it was hard to go back there for the reunion," said Disher. "There were a lot of painful memories."
Thirty years ago, when the freshmen arrived for induction day - when heads are shorn, uniforms and rooms are assigned, and the crucible known as plebe summer begins - only 14 women were on the faculty. There were 17 male freshmen "plebes" for every one of the women, and once the rest of the midshipmen arrived in the fall, they were outnumbered by a margin of 50-to-1.
Their numbers were few, and their moves were watched. Their hair was cut to collar-length by barbers trained to shear men's heads like lambs. Their uniforms didn't fit well, and many of their male classmates made it clear that they weren't welcome, insisting that the school trains "line officers" for combat, not women who, under the law then in effect, couldn't serve on a Navy combat ship or plane.
In a demoralizing blow their senior year, James Webb, a war hero and novelist in the English department, cut a swath with an oft-quoted article in Washingtonian magazine, titled "Women Can't Fight."
But it wasn't all bad, said Capt. Katherine Shanebrook, who now heads the academy's division of mathematics and science. Now one of the highest-ranking officers at the school, serving in a position that would equate to dean at a civilian university, Shanebrook has mostly positive memories of her time at the academy.
"One thing I was really pleased about was the variety of things we got to do," she said, "whether it was hand-to-hand combat, swimming or sailing. We got to learn how to fence. We were introduced to so many different things in a short period of time, and I really enjoyed that."
Shanebrook came to the academy after three years as an enlisted corpsman, or Navy medic, in San Diego. After growing up in Pontiac, Ill., she joined the Navy to pursue a medical career and discovered it wasn't for her. Shanebrook was taking oceanography courses at a local community college when she found out that women could attend the Naval Academy.
She didn't see herself as a trailblazer, she just saw it as the right opportunity at the right time, she said.
Shanebrook's career in the Navy's oceanography and meteorology community took her to both poles of the Earth, working as a forecaster. Now back at the academy in a significant leadership position, she said the opportunities she received in the Navy were as good as what she might have found in the civilian world, if not better. The troubles the women Mids faced are all but gone, she said.
"Women have been here for 30 years," she said. "People here have not known it any other way. It's just not a big deal anymore. Women now go out to sea on our ships and fly out on our airplanes."
The daughter of a career Air Force officer, Disher said she and others weren't looking to be the center of glaring media and peer attention as the "firsts" to change the Navy - most were only 18 years old, after all, learning how to march in the hot sun and memorizing the bible of midshipman behavior, Reef Points, with the rest of the plebes.
Disher, 47, told their tale in First Class: Women Join the Ranks at the Naval Academy, a "fact-based novel" about her experiences as an engineering major at the academy. After 10 years in the Navy's civil engineer corps, she resigned her commission and now manages the Annapolis Pottery shop.
Her daughter and son entered the academy last week, in another first: twins whose parents are alumni. Her novel's sequel, she said with a wry smile, is up to her daughter Alison to write.
Without a clue
Disher dotted her book with vivid vignettes that paint a darker side of the first coed days, weeks and years on "the Yard," as the campus is called. Arriving with an eagerness to serve their country, the young women in the Class of 1980 were greeted with derision from many - though not all - in the brigade of midshipmen.
"What we [women] had in common was naivete," Disher said from her Annapolis home, where she lives with her husband, Navy Cmdr. Timothy Disher, and their younger son. "We had not a clue what was facing us."
She and her friends found out soon enough that many male midshipmen resented women - and not just for getting some of the best rooms and bathrooms in the so-called "ship" of Bancroft Hall, the brigade's living quarters. Some resented their mere presence.
The Webb article likely fueled that peer faction, said Lory Manning of the Women's Research and Education Institute in Arlington, Va. "It gave them permission to act out their feelings," said Manning.
Disher said the Navy's prohibition on women officers serving on ships at sea created discontent among her male and female classmates from the start.
While most of their male classmates spent summers on destroyers, carriers or submarines, the women stayed behind, some doing desk duty at the Pentagon.
Today, women can serve in combat positions on surface ships or jets, though they are still barred from duty aboard submarines or with the Navy SEALs. Disher said the ability to serve on a ship has fostered greater acceptance of women by men at the academy.
The academy continues, however, to struggle with the integration of women within its walls, after many high-profile incidents of rape and sexual harassment. Just last year, a Defense Department task force said the school's culture was "hostile" to women.
Rempt has made no secret that he would like to increase the percentage of female midshipmen to 20 percent, a figure that has almost been reached with the incoming Class of 2010. Last week, more than 270 women became plebes at the academy, the most in the school's history, bringing the total percentage of women in the brigade to 19.7 percent.
Manning said the academy culture toward women would change when they reach about 20 percent of the student body.
Thirty years later, opinion remains divided on high-ranking women.
"There still is opposition [to women] by the old guard," said W. Minor Carter, a Class of 1962 academy graduate and an Annapolis lawyer. "I think they're idiots. That ship has sailed. Accept it, and move on."