Navy magazine lampoons diversity

September 01, 1995|By Ellen Gamerman and Tom Bowman | Ellen Gamerman and Tom Bowman,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writer Kris Antonelli contributed to this article.

A satire of Navy life in 2010 that lampoons diversity and women in the service has angered Navy brass and divided readers of the magazine for career Naval personnel in which it appeared.

The article, written by the issues director for U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm's presidential campaign, was called "hysterical ranting" by one reader of the magazine. Another said it offered "much food for thought."

The article, set aboard an aircraft carrier doing rain forest preservation research off Brazil, appeared in the August issue of Proceedings. The ship's commander's scheduled leave is delayed for three months because his replacement is on maternity leave.

Retired Navy Commander Deborah Gernes wrote in a letter to the editor of Proceedings that in her 20 years in the Navy she had never found it necessary to protest anything in the magazine until now. She termed the piece a "hysterical ranting" for the "good old days." In addition, she found the "offensive and unprofessional commentary an insult to every professional Naval officer."

But retired Capt. Dick Bates, an avid Proceedings reader, said yesterday he "thought it was good satire and that's the way I took it."

"I don't think I'd make a good Naval officer today," said Captain Bates, a 1948 Naval Academy graduate who opposes women on combat vessels. "I'm a relic from the past."

Larry Di Rita, author of the article and a 1980 Naval Academy graduate, is issues director of Mr. Gramm's presidential campaign. Mr. Di Rita could not be reached.

Retired Capt. Jim Barber, publisher of the magazine, which is put out by the U.S. Naval Institute in Annapolis, would not discuss the article or its repercussions.

The U.S. Naval Institute is a private, not for profit organization that includes top Navy leaders such as Mike Boorda, the chief of naval operations, and Admiral Charles R. Larson, superintendent the Naval Academy, on its Board of Control.

Admiral Larson told the Navy Times that an Aug. 25 board meeting was called "to insure that the institute and Proceedings properly fulfill their mission of advancing the professional, literary and scientific knowledge of the Navy."

The Navy Times article, which appears in an issue dated Sept. 4, says Admiral Larson denied that he was involved in a move to fire the magazine's chief editor, Fred Rainbow.

Neither Admiral Larson nor Mr. Rainbow could be reached last night.

The satire recounts an incident aboard a fictional battleship named for U.S. Rep. Patricia Schroeder, a Colorado Democrat and a proponent of opportunities for women in the services. In the incident, a seaman of "IndoUgric heritage" sues his superior, charging "insensitivity to diversity."

The sailor claims that his chief was insensitive to his "IndoUgric traditions, which required him to spend each Wednesday and Friday afternoon in quiet reflection away from his normal place of work." The sailor wins.

Speaking of the fictional skipper, who entered the Navy in 1980 to fly jet fighters and finds himself on a war ship with a day care nursery, the satire concludes, "Something had changed, and it wasn't him. Maybe it was better; probably not. He didn't know for sure, but he knew it wasn't fun anymore."

Andrea Camp, a spokeswoman for Ms. Schroeder, said the satire's author is "from the flat earth caucus."

"It sounds like a very reactionary, fear-of-the-future attitude," she said. "We've gotten dinged from the Navy for what we've been promoting. This is an attitude we've been fighting for years."

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