Naval Academy defends move to adjust image on national TV
Membership of color guard at World Series was revised to reflect school's diversity
By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Leaders of the U.S. Naval Academy tinkered with the composition of the color guard that appeared at a World Series game last month so the group would not be exclusively white and male.
Accounts differ as to who was added to or removed from the Oct. 29 color guard. But the net result was that one of the six who marched on Yankee Stadium's field, Midshipman 2nd Class Hannah Allaire, was selected because her presence would make the service academy look more diverse before a national audience.
The incident has captured the attention of the Annapolis campus and stirred up the broader community of alumni and military observers, who see it as part of a campaign to bring more racial and sexual diversity to the academy. Diversity is a sensitive point at the Naval Academy, an institution that has been accused by some faculty members and alumni of forsaking fairness in its quest to build a brigade that mirrors the nation as a whole.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, elevated diversity to a "strategic imperative" during his tenure as chief of naval operations. Academy leaders, on their official Web site, call diversity "our highest personnel priority."
That thinking reflects "a sea change, in that this initiative was generated from within the military, rather than imposed from without by civilian overseers," said retired Marine Maj. Gen. Thomas Wilkerson, an academy alumnus and chief executive of the U.S. Naval Institute, an independent think tank. Some alumni, he said, "have voiced concerns that it will happen at the expense of quality and combat readiness."
A military-oriented blog, CDR Salamander, reported last week that two white men had been pulled from the color guard that went to Yankee Stadium and replaced with an Asian American man and a white woman to make the group more diverse.
Academy leadership disputed that account.
"No midshipman was ever given approval to attend this event and then later told they could not," said Capt. Matthew Klunder, commandant of midshipmen, in a statement Monday. He said he considered replacing two white men but chose to expand the color guard from six to eight to make it more representative of the Naval Academy.
Two of the eight could not perform because Zishan Hameed, one of the midshipmen added to the color guard, had forgotten parts of his uniform, Klunder said. The color guard marches in pairs.