ANNAPOLIS -- America's latest conquering hero, U.S. Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, told graduating midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy yesterday that Operation Desert Storm proved that great American leadership always emerges in times of crisis.
"A military officer does not always get to choose when or where he or she will don the mantle of life-or-death leadership," General Schwarzkopf, commander of both Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, told the 937 graduating midshipmen.
"When you progress up the ranks, someday you may find yourself in a similar situation. You must ask yourself, 'If I don't lead, who will?' Then you, too, will do your duty."
General Schwarzkopf's appearance amid the pomp and circumstance of the academy's annual graduating and commissioning ceremonies at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis represented a major break from traditional interservice rivalries.
The 1956 West Point graduate was the first active-duty Army officer to address a Navy graduating class and the first Army general to do so since President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958.
That provoked some good-natured ribbing. At one point, Navy Secretary H. Lawrence Garrett III chided the general as "proof, indeed, that it is possible to succeed in life despite a misstep or two in early life such as choosing the wrong academy."
General Schwarzkopf later countered that remark by denying rumors that he was the academy's guest speaker because he had won -- or lost -- a wager on an Army-Navy game.
The Desert Storm commander congratulated the Navy and Marine Corps for being a vital part of the Persian Gulf effort. Early deployment of Navy vessels and aircraft "I believe stopped Iraq from invading Saudi Arabia" last summer, he said.
"Together we showed a ruthless dictator and the world that no nation can brutalize its neighbors," he said. "We returned to that small country the most precious gift anyone can give, liberty."
He also singled out the Navy's blockade of shipping and the amphibious assault troops, whose deceptive tactics "kept vast numbers of Iraqis pinned down on the coast and finally enabled the Army to do its now famous Hail Mary end-run."
Successful leadership, General Schwarzkopf told the mids, is often based on "unglamorous" technical competence. The "blitzkrieg" into Kuwait and Iraq came only after months of training and hard work in the desert, he said.
"Great American leaders are motivated not by money, not by medals, but by patriotism and by love of this great country," he said.
Yesterday's was the 141st graduation ceremony for the four-year service academy since it was founded in 1845. Most of the 859 men and 78 women received military commissions: 831 as Navy ensigns, 94 as second lieutenants in the Marine Corps and six as Air Force second lieutenants. Six graduates were foreign citizens.
One of the day's most touching moments came as the academy's superintendent since August 1988, Rear Adm. Virgil L. Hill Jr., gave his farewell remarks to the brigade of midshipmen.
Admiral Hill, who will complete his three-year tour with the academy next month, is scheduled to command the Navy's Operational Test and Evaluation Force in Norfolk, Va., a Navy spokesman said. His successor will be Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch, a 1964 academy graduate who may be chiefly remembered in the Annapolis area as starting center and team captain when Roger Staubach quarterbacked the academy football team.
"This is my last graduation," said Admiral Hill, his voice choking with emotion. "I guess I dreaded this day coming as much as you all have looked forward to it."
A crowd of about 20,000 attended the ceremonies, which began with a flyover by the Blue Angels, the Navy's flight demonstration squadron, in their thundering F/A-18 Hornets.
Family and friends of graduating midshipmen traveled from across the country for the event.
"It was great to be here," said Tina Sexton, a Shelbyville, Ind., resident who was one of a group of 49 who drove cross-country to see her second cousin, Sean R. Liedman, receive his degree and commission. "The general was wonderful. It was something I'll never experience again I'm sure."
A man dressed in camouflage clothing was taken into custody after a brief fracas inside a stadium gate. Annapolis police said that Scott A. Bradley, 34, of Annapolis had entered illegally and that military police were concerned he might represent a threat to General Schwarzkopf.
Mr. Bradley had allegedly told his mother, a Severna Park resident, that he intended to see General Schwarzkopf and also that he wanted to borrow the family's .22-caliber rifle, but his mother refused to let him have it, Officer Dermott L. Hickey, an Annapolis police spokesman, said.
Some .22-caliber ammunition was found in Mr. Bradley's truck as well as a blue police light, but he was unarmed, Mr. Hickey said. Police said Mr. Bradley has a history of mental health problems.
He was taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center for an emergency mental evaluation but will not be charged, Mr. Hickey said.