Saturday :: Jun 4, 2005

Officers, But Not Gentlemen


by pessimist

I work for a bunch of ex-military officers at my real-world employment, and I have to tell you that if this is what the American military calls leaders, then I have no doubt about why Iraq and Afghanistan are the messes they are.

The ex-officers I work for are a bunch of petulant, incompetent candy-asses, and have repeatedly demonstrated that they are more concerned with their personal advancement than they are in performing their assigned duties. They hog all the glory while they are free with the blame. They are no example for anyone, and I would not want anyone to have to follow such slugs into harm's way!

Considering that they are ex-officers, the majority either came out of Southern military schools like The Citadel, which earned a misogynist reputation for the mistreatment of female cadets, or they came out of the bastions of bigotry that our military academies seem to be:


Air Force Academy Leader Admits Religious Intolerance at School

The academy has been under investigation because of complaints that evangelical Christians have harassed cadets who do not share their faith. Some cadets have complained of anti-Semitic slurs, and one of the top chaplains at the school claims she was fired because she criticized what she saw as proselytizing at the academy, near Colorado Springs.

The superintendent of the Air Force Academy acknowledged to leaders of a national Jewish group on Friday that religious intolerance permeated the military school. "As a commander, I know I have problems in my cadet wing," the superintendent, Lt. Gen. John Rosa Jr., said at a meeting of the executive committee of the group, the Anti-Defamation League. "I have issues in my staff, and I have issues in my faculty - and that's my whole organization."

General Rosa said that he had spoken with critics of the school and that he agreed with many of their complaints. He said he did not learn of the Yale Divinity School's report on religious intolerance at the academy, issued last year, until much later. General Rosa said the problem is "something that keeps me awake at night," adding, "If everything goes well, it's probably going to take six years to fix it."

Mikey Weinstein, a graduate of the academy who has become a leading critic of the school, said General Rosa's acknowledgment "is too little and too late. We need new leadership at the Air Force Academy," said Mr. Weinstein, who has sent two sons to the academy.

To those officers of whom the bigot characterizations cited above apply, I'd like to introduce you to a real officer - AND GENTLEMAN:


Slurs, Demerits No Barrier To Naval Academy Pioneer
Class of '45 Honors D.C. Native Who Became First Black Graduate

Many of his classmates refused to speak to him. Demerits from a small group of upperclassmen piled up, leading to extra marching duty as punishment that took away from study time. The demerits often were given for petty and sometimes fabricated infractions that were difficult to disprove.

Howie Weiss, from the Class of 1947, recalled in the book that about two dozen upperclassmen, mostly from the South, "were just plain out to get him. "And the way they were going to get him was through demerits."

These incompetent bastards - many of whom later commanded units in Vietnam, some of them becoming victims of fragging, failed miserably:

He retired 20 years later as a lieutenant commander in the Navy's Civil Engineering Corps.

So who is this fine example of an officer and gentleman - one to be held up as an example to all who hold commissions in America's service - who once served in the United States Navy?

On June 30, 1945, Wesley A. Brown stood amid a group of white faces clad in crisp, white uniforms inside the U.S. Naval Academy's Memorial Hall and took the oath of induction. He was the sixth African American admitted to the academy. There were three during Reconstruction and two in the 1930s -- all had been forced out or resigned after relentless campaigns of hazing and demerits, and sometimes physical violence.
Brown survived, graduating in 1949 to break the academy's color barrier.
For years, Brown played down the treatment he received at the hands of fellow midshipmen. But his punishing journey, along with that of the five other black men who tried unsuccessfully to integrate the academy, is detailed in a new book by an official Navy historian. Robert J. Schneller Jr.'s Breaking the Color Barrier: The U.S. Naval Academy's First Black Midshipmen and the Struggle for Racial Equality, describes for the first time the difficulties Brown endured and the concerted effort by a "tight knot" of southern upperclassmen to oust him using racial epithets, ostracism and demerits.

Members of the Class of 1949 gathered over lunch yesterday at the academy to honor Brown's accomplishment for the first time and to hear from Schneller. Brown, 78, said he had been unaware of some of the most disturbing actions against him, including the demerit campaign, until Schneller began his research. "I suspected it, but I had no way of knowing," he said.

Being All You Can Be

Brown grew up on Q Street NW near Logan Circle. The neighborhood was then an intellectual and social center for blacks in segregated Washington, and Brown devoured books on black history. He became fascinated with the stories of black pioneers in the military.

At Dunbar High School, he joined the cadet corps. He aspired to attend West Point, which graduated its first black cadet in 1877. Not old enough to apply when he graduated from high school in June 1944, he enrolled at Howard University -- becoming the first in his family to attend college -- and enlisted in the Army Reserve.

As a freshman, he still intended to seek an appointment at West Point when Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. of New York offered him a chance to attend the Naval Academy. Recalling the stories he had read of the first black cadets to graduate from West Point, the idea of being the first at the Naval Academy appealed to him. It was the "greater challenge," he told his former classmates yesterday.

Brown soon found himself the object of racial epithets. By the end of his first semester, Brown had 103 demerits, enough to make Weiss worry that Brown could be expelled. Weiss and a handful of other upperclassmen, including a young Jimmy Carter, took Brown under their wing. The ill treatment eased in his second semester -- only five demerits -- and into his second year.

After graduating, he wrote in the Saturday Evening Post that in his first month a "clique of upperclassmen tried to work me over by reporting me for minor offenses." The demerits came in "bucketfuls," he wrote.

Soaring On The Wings Of Eagles

But instead of blaming racism, Brown attributed most of the treatment to his behavior. "When I got into hot water, I kept reminding myself, Brown, you're in trouble because you're a dumb cluck and have made a mistake. You're getting the same treatment as your classmates." As recently as 1989, he told a Washington Post reporter that he was treated much the same as everyone else.

The Real Man Of Steel

Even now, Brown still doesn't complain, said his wife of 41 years, Crystal.
"We were brought up in segregated Washington and segregated schools, so we didn't expect a whole lot of friendly treatment," Crystal Brown said. "You learned to steel yourself."
And besides, added her husband, the book has a happy ending.

If only real life did!

The only question I have is why someone like Wesley A. Brown isn't in charge of each of our military academies. The cadets are going to be created in the image of their commander, and I think that there is no finer example for them to emulate than a man who had to successfully face the challenges that Lt. Cmdr. Brown has done.

If our officer corps is supposed to set an example for the troops they command, then the behaviors demonstrated by the troops reflect the quality of that leadership.

I think that recent news events - no matter how strongly denied by Bu$hCo - speak volumes to that premise.


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