Officer candidates are placed in stressful situations, but in a "positive manner," and encouraged to think on their feet, said General Krulak, a 1964 academy graduate and Vietnam veteran.
A similar program started three years ago at the U.S. Military Academy, while the U.S. Air Force Academy initiated its own Academy Leadership Development Program earlier this year.
Today's troops are better educated. The battlefield is technologically sophisticated, decentralized, fast moving -- and more lethal. Screaming at an enlisted man or young officer will not bring results, General Krulak said.
Although proponents of the boot camp atmosphere might say it "made Krulak what he is today," the general said, "What it emblazoned on my mind is that I would never want to degrade another human being like that."
More support for change
"I give the current superintendent a lot of credit," added Cmdr. Bob Parsons, stationed at Norfolk, Va., whose daughter is a member of the Class of 1997. Positive role models, a greater emphasis on study and professional development will offer the Navy a better officer, he said.
Retired Vice Adm. William P. Lawrence, the superintendent from 1978 through 1981 who also tried to instill a more positive role model for plebes, brushed aside talk that a more mellow plebe year will not produce toughened officers.
He entered the academy in 1948 and was trained by World War II veterans who offered a more professional plebe year without the yelling, he said, adding, "I fought in two wars and spent six years as a prisoner of war."
And the change will help the rest of the academy, the admiral added.
"The upper classes are supposed to derive as much from the experience as the plebes. You're very much a trainer, a teacher," he said.
Still 'a lot of pressure'
Among those teachers are Mr. Huber, the 21-year-old midshipman commander from Rotonda, Fla., and Morgen Paul, 20, a battalion commander from Anderson, Alaska.
"It's not less rigorous. It's just different. Plebes are still under a lot of pressure to learn," Ms. Paul said.
The academy would not allow plebes to be interviewed because they are in the midst of summer indoctrination.
Mr. Huber recalled overseeing a squad of lackluster plebes. Instead of screaming at them, he took them to Memorial Hall and had them stand at attention as one plebe recited the names of academy graduates who were killed in action. Mr. Huber said he was trying to instill in them the importance of what they were trying to accomplish.
"Their performance the next day was day-and-night different," he said. "It's leadership. The old style wasn't leadership."
Still, both 1st Class midshipmen said they have some misgivings about the new style of plebe training. "The fleet has not seen the results yet," Ms. Paul said.
But for Admiral Lynch, there is only certainty that changing plebe year has set the academy on the correct course.
"A year from now we're going to be sitting back and saying, 'Why didn't we do that before?' " he said. "No question."