Academy proves worthy of MUC Ribbon for uniform, pennant show it's a top military unit

Equivalent to Bronze Star

June 07, 1998|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

For the first time in history, a MUC flutters above the U.S. Naval Academy.

Not a duck, a MUC -- that's how the Navy refers to the prestigious Meritorious Unit Commendation award President Clinton has bestowed upon an academy considered new and improved at the end of Superintendent Adm. Charles R. Larson's four-year term.

The award, which typically goes to Navy ships, air squadrons or command posts, gives the academy the right to fly a MUC pennant from its flagstaff. It also allows naval personnel who served at the academy from August 1996 to June 1998 to wear a MUC ribbon on their uniforms.

Navy Secretary John H. Dalton presented the award to Larson Thursday at a ceremony marking his retirement and the swearing-in of his successor as superintendent, Vice Adm. John R. Ryan.

The MUC flag was hoisted Friday, and midshipmen and other Navy officers at the academy will soon get their ribbons, which they will wear above the left breast pockets of their uniforms.

The MUC is equivalent to the Bronze Star awarded to individuals for gallantry, Dalton said. It is given annually to top military units, and this year, the academy proved itself worthy.

"I'm very proud of where the Naval Academy is and I'm very

proud of where the Naval Academy is headed," Larson said after receiving the award.

Civilians may not understand the excitement, but ribbons and medals are serious business in the Navy and the other military branches -- they tell a story of lineage and achievement. Officers caught wearing unauthorized medals have been known to resign in disgrace.

"The unusual thing about this award is that it's not for personnel or an individual, it's for everybody at the academy, including the faculty and the midshipmen," said Cmdr. Michael E. Brady, academy spokesman.

The award holds special meaning for the academy because it's the school's first unit award and because the academy is trying to distance itself from the scandals of years past. Other recent MUCs have gone to Camp Lejeune, N.C., named the top Marine Corps base earlier this year, and the USS Phoenix, a submarine that was decommissioned last year.

"It's pretty damn rare for a shore-based command to get it," said Rear Adm. Tom Jurkowsky, who will be allowed to wear the MUC ribbon because of the 3 1/2 years he has spent as spokesman for the Naval Academy.

Awards are approved by a Navy Awards Board before gaining final approval by the Navy secretary and the chief of naval operations. "So, it's got to be justified," Jurkowsky said. "They're not given out like candy."

Pub Date: 6/07/98

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