New leader takes helm of U.S. Naval Academy

August 02, 1994|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Sun Staff Writer

Adm. Charles R. Larson yesterday took command of the Naval Academy, a school stained by the largest cheating xTC scandal in its history, declaring that the academy will return to its tradition of developing officers of integrity.

"My goals are very, very simple. No. 1: to develop character," said the four-star admiral, the highest ranking officer to head the 149-year-old school.

"No. 2: To prove the worth of the service academies to the people of the United States, to show that service academies are absolutely critical to the future of our nation and our national security policy," Admiral Larson said.

At an Alumni Hall ceremony replete with roaring gun salutes, admirals' pennants and snappy march tunes, Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch turned over responsibility for the school with a simple salute.

Admiral Larson, 57, was hand-picked by top Pentagon officials in an effort to burnish the tarnished academy. Until recently, he was commander in chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific and took the unusual step of retiring and then returning as a four-star admiral. He is a 1958 academy graduate and served as superintendent from 1983 to 1986.

The admiral brought waves of laughter from the hundreds of officials, alumni, midshipmen and family members when he recalled what he told his wife Sally after deciding to take the job: "Half my friends will think I'm a great American and the other half will think I'm crazy."

He continued, "We know what the challenges are and we know what the requirements are. And that's why we're here. We also think there are some things more important than . . . going out and making money."

Admiral Lynch was sharply criticized over the scandal involving a December 1992 electrical engineering exam. After more than 1 1/2 years and two investigations, 24 midshipmen were expelled and some 88 others punished.

The Navy inspector general concluded the academy's hierarchy was not intent on getting to the bottom of the scandal. One senator said the school "botched" the probe and Admiral Lynch admitted "failure" for not aggressively pursuing the investigation.

Admiral Lynch accepted a lateral move at two-star rank, rather than the third star and fleet he had hoped to command. Next month he will become director of a Navy group determining the future roles and missions of the Navy and Marine Corps.

In prepared remarks yesterday, Admiral Lynch said he told Admiral Jeremy M. Boorda, the chief of naval operations, that presented with the same evidence, he would not have done anything different regarding the scandal.

He noted, however, that the scandal "caused us to renew our emphasis and commitment to honor education."

The school is creating a comprehensive character development plan for the 4,000 midshipmen and has hired a Marine colonel to oversee the plan.

Admiral Boorda presented Admiral Lynch with the Distinguished Service Medal, awarded for exceptionally meritorious service to the government in a duty of great responsibility.

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