Realizing a dream from boyhood Calvert Hall graduate becomes rear admiral

March 11, 1997|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,SUN STAFF

As a youngster at St. Ursula's School on Harford Road, Jimmy Metzger wanted to be an admiral, standing on the bridge of a ship wearing a baseball cap with scrambled eggs on the bill.

"I guess he can do that any time he wants now," William J. Malstrom III said of his friend since grade school, recently promoted Rear Adm. James W. Metzger, 47, a nuclear submariner who will be inducted tomorrow into the Hall of Fame at Calvert Hall College.

Metzger is ending a tour as executive assistant to Navy Secretary John H. Dalton, a post in which his predecessors include Adm. Stansfield Turner, director of the CIA under President Jimmy Carter, and Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt, chief of naval operations in the early 1970s. He expects his next assignment to be with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

An honors graduate of Calvert Hall College (1967) and the Naval Academy (1971), Metzger was the kind of student bound to succeed, said Brother Kevin Stanton, Metzger's chemistry teacher and now Calvert Hall's principal.

"I'm not at all surprised that he's had this kind of success in the military," Stanton said of Metzger, the first admiral in the Towson school's 152-year history. "He was unflappable, precise and always under control."

Today's Navy is different from when he was commissioned an ensign 25 years ago, said Metzger, who became an admiral Jan. 30. "It is technologically more adept, the people are smarter and better educated, and they have a better attitude. Community service is important now; it wasn't before."

The scandals that have rocked the Naval Academy in recent years reflect the changes in society overall, he said, and perhaps should lead to changes in screening candidates. "The best people are still good people, but they're different from 25 years ago," he said.

As one of the new generation of flag officers, Metzger's views on women in the military, including the Navy, are positive.

"Women have integrated very well; all they want is to be treated as equals," said Metzger, predicting that women will become admirals in proportion to their numbers. "They are equally competitive and can do any job."

Metzger, his wife, Mary Jane, and their daughters, Jennifer, 22, and Amy, 20, have lived many places. But he keeps a warm place in his heart for the red-brick Cape Cod in Carney that his father built and where he grew up with his brother Tom.

Their father, George, 70, a retired bricklayer, and mother, Joan, 67, a homemaker, were strict, inculcating strong values.

Jim's aspirations emerged in the sixth grade, Joan Metzger recalled. By his junior year at Calvert Hall, he was collecting references for the Naval Academy. After Annapolis, he earned a master's degree in electrical engineering at Michigan State University.

Metzger's first command was the nuclear submarine USS Minneapolis-St. Paul, from 1987 to 1990. He later commanded Submarine Development Squadron 12, testing equipment and tactics.

Metzger moved to the Pentagon in 1993.

The ceremony for Metzger's promotion to one-star rear admiral mirrored his academy graduation in 1971. Then, his mother and Mary Jane, his childhood sweetheart whom he married two weeks later, pinned on his ensign's shoulder boards. The two women did it again at the Pentagon, leading Secretary Dalton to say, "It's not often the same two ladies pin the shoulder boards on an ensign and an admiral."

Pub Date: 3/11/97

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