Ex-sec­re­tary: PC has cost Navy avi­a­tion its swag­ger

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

The Navy’s former top civil­ian has rocked the ser­vice in a mil­i­tary jour­nal ar­ti­cle by ac­cus­ing of­fi­cials of sink­ing the sto­ried naval air branch into a sea of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness.

Former Navy Sec­re­tary John Lehman, him­self a former car­rier-based avi­a­tor, wrote that the swag­ger and dar­ing of yes­ter­day’s cul­ture has given way to a fo­cus on in­te­grat­ing women and, this year, ho­mo­sex­u­als.

Pi­lots con­stantly worr y about anony­mous com­plaints about salty lan­guage, while squadron com­man­ders are awash in bu­reau­cratic re­quire­ments for re­ports and sta­tis­tics, he added.

“Those at­tributes of naval avi­a­tors — will­ing­ness to take in­tel­li­gent cal­cu­lated risk, self­con­fi­dence, even a cer tain swag­ger — that are in­valu­able in wartime are the very ones that make them par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble in to­day’s zero-tol­er­ance Navy,” said Mr. Lehman, who led the Navy in the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“The po­lit­i­cal-cor­rect­ness thought po­lice, like In­spec­tor Javert in ‘Les Mis­er­ables,’ are out to get them and are re­lent­less.”

Navy pi­lots have com­plained pri­vately for years that a postTail­hook Con­ven­tion push to clean up con­duct by avi­a­tors went too far.

The 1991 Las Ve­gas con­ven­tion has stood as a black mark for the Navy be­cause some naval avi­a­tors en­gaged in lewd es­capades and ex­ces­sive drink­ing.

An en­su­ing Pen­tagon in­ves­ti­ga­tion bal­looned into one of the govern­ment’s most ex­ten­sive probes, as scores of of­fi­cers were tar­geted and had their ca­reers short­ened. Fem­i­nists used the scan­dal to de­mand a change in Navy cul­ture.

Now, Mr. Lehman, a New York in­vestor who served as a bom­bardier nav­i­ga­tor in A-6 In­trud­ers, has aired in pub­lic what ac­tive-duty pi­lots dare not say.

His lengthy ar­ti­cle adorns the home page of the mag­a­zine Pro­ceed­ings, a fo­rum for ac­tive-duty and re­tired per­son­nel on naval is­sues. Pro­ceed­ings is pub­lished by the U.S. Naval In­sti­tute, an independent as­so­ci­a­tion lo­cated at the Naval Academy in An­napo­lis, Md.

“Once stan­dards of com­mon sense were ig­nored in fa­vor of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness, there were no lim­its to the spread of its dom­i­na­tion,” Mr. Lehman wrote.

“Not only have al­co­hol in­frac­tions anony­mously re- ported on the hot line be­come ca­reer-en­ders, but sus­pi­cions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment, ho­mo­pho­bia, telling of risque jokes, and speech likely to of­fend fa­vored groups all find their way into fit­ness re­ports.

“And if ac­tual hot-line inves- tiga­tions are then launched, that is usu­ally the end of a ca­reer, re­gard­less of the out­come. There is now zero tol­er­ance for any mis­steps in these ar­eas.”

The Lehman broad­side co­in­cides with the cel­e­bra­tions this year at mil­i­tary bases across the coun­try of the 100th an- niver­sary of naval avi­a­tion.

That cel­e­bra­tion, too, got caught up this year in charges of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. The foun­da­tion in charge of an­niver­sary events posted a his­tory online that em­pha­sized women and mi­nor­ity ad­vance- ment in naval air.

It vir tu­ally ig­nored the ma­jor air bat­tles of World War II and Viet­nam, where the role of air­craft-car­rier op­er­a­tions gained promi­nence. A num­ber of re­tired avi­a­tors protested, prompt­ing the foun­da­tion to pull the pre­sen­ta­tion and write a new one.

Then there was the case of Capt. Owen Hon­ors. The Navy fired him as com­mand­ing of­fi­cer of the car­rier USS En­ter­prise, af­ter on­board raunchy videos he pro­duced in 2006 and 2007 as morale boost­ers be-

Pi­lots con­stantly worry about anony­mous com­plaints about salty lan­guage, while squadron com­man­ders are awash in bu­reau­cratic re­quire­ments for re­ports and sta­tis­tics, Mr. Lehman added. “Those at­tributes of naval avi­a­tors — will­ing­ness to take in­tel­li­gent cal­cu­lated risk, self­con­fi­dence, even a cer­tain swag­ger — that are in­valu­able in wartime are the very ones that make them par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble in to­day’s zero-tol­er­ance Navy,” said Mr. Lehman, who led the Navy in the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion. “The po­lit­i­cal-cor­rect­ness thought po­lice, like In­spec­tor Javer t in ‘Les Mis­er­ables,’ are out to get them and are re­lent­less.”

came pub­lic. Again, the Navy’s crit­ics lev­eled charges of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness.

Also this year, some avi­a­tors cir­cu­lated a rogue uni­form patch de­pict­ing the naval avi­a­tion cul­ture as dead.

The L eh­man ar ticle has stirred emo­tions on both sides of the de­bate.

A spokesman for Naval Air Forces At­lantic in Nor­folk, Va., de­clined to com­ment, but the Navy is push­ing back.

At the Tail­hook As­so­ci­a­tion’s an­nual con­ven­tion in Reno, Nev., this month, some ac­tive­duty ad­mi­rals ex­pressed their dis­plea­sure with Mr. Lehman’s al­le­ga­tions, ac­cord­ing to a re­tired flier who at­tended.

Some cur­rent avi­a­tors are de­fend­ing the Navy’s “of­fi­cerand-a-gen­tle­man” push.

Lt. Christo­pher “Chan­dler” Mo­ran, who iden­ti­fied him­self as an eight-year naval avi­a­tor, posted a com­ment on Pro­ceed­ings vouch­ing for the cur­rent cul­ture.

“Yes, per­haps we have some train­ing that seems like a waste of time, but I’m not sure what ex­actly is wrong with be­ing re­spect­ful of peo­ple who weren’t pre­vi­ously al­lowed into the com­mu­nity,” Lt. Mo­ran wrote.

“Yes, per­haps some peo­ple who might have been good lead­ers are no longer in the com­mu­nity, [. . .] but to say that the com­mu­nity is worse off is to marginal­ize all of the new mem­bers of the com­mu­nity.

“And trust me, re­gard­less of who you are or what you be­lieve in, you still need a thick skin in naval avi­a­tion,” he added.

“You will get made fun of re­gard­less of who you are. Women know this, ho­mo­sex­u­als know this, ev­ery­one knows this. That part of the cul­ture will not change.

“To as­sume that ever y women gets offended at ev­ery joke is not only ridicu­lous, but is rude to women. Re­spect is the real is­sue, and should we naval avi­a­tors not be called to a high level of re­spect.”

Most posts agreed with Mr. Lehman.

A re­tired of­fi­cer wrote that Lt. Mo­ran’s post was “filled with fem­i­nine hy­per­bole and the fruits of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness.”

Jon Ault, a re­tired F-14 Tom­cat pi­lot, said Mr. Lehman is pub­licly air­ing what a lot of fliers think but can’t say.

“This coun­try needs the ‘hot shots,’ the war­riors, the big egos, the guys who are awarded medals of honor for run­ning into, not away from, con­flict.” he told The Washington Times.

“As much as peo­ple hate us dur­ing peace­time, and as much as they love the dar­ing bravado dur­ing times of strife, the need for such men will al­ways be there.

“If we con­tinue to sup­press the war­rior spirit, there will be no one left to de­fend the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States and we shall per­ish as a na­tion.”

John Lehman

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