- The Washington Times - Monday, July 29, 2002

ANNAPOLIS (AP) Dave Crabbe remembers a bellowing upperclassman ordering him to the hard dormitory floor to muscle out 20 push-ups during his plebe days at the U.S. Naval Academy.
But now that it's his turn to whip plebes into shape, he is ordering them to their pens to write an essay on being an American.
It's part of a new mood that is taking root at the academy, where the harassment that spawned the country's first anti-hazing law has given way to a climate of sensitivity.
In another example, when new commandant Col. John Allen overheard a plebe platoon shout "kill" in unison a couple weeks ago, he ordered the word purged from their vocabulary.
He said it was too early in their careers to think about the "kill piece" of military training.
"What we've done is, we've removed the cruelty," says the school's spokesman, Cmdr. Bill Spann. "We've learned over the years that you do not need to be cruel in order to produce a combat-ready warrior."
The academy has already dismissed four upperclassmen from plebe-training jobs this month after a plebe complained about being screamed at and scolded too harshly.
Col. Allen, a tough-talking Marine who scrapped the spot correction this summer, said that preparing the next generation of naval officers for combat should not cross the line into humiliation. He wants upperclassmen to lead by example, not fear.
"We never want to denigrate someone, robbing them of their dignity," said Col. Allen, whose job is comparable to the dean of students at a civilian college.
"We want parents to understand that when they give us their children, they will be treated very fairly."
But some alumni wonder whether the latest crop of fresh-faced teenagers is being adequately groomed for the pressures of war.
"Human dignity is important, but I worry that we're so concerned about someone's dignity that when they're in a stressful situation, they're very dignified but they fall apart," says John S. "Scott" Redd, a retired vice admiral and fleet commander who graduated in 1966.
Scott L. Sears, a retired rear admiral from the same class, recalls, among other physical penalties, being ordered to hold a rifle in front of him until his arms gave way.
"It disciplined my mind to respect authority and to place my trust in my seniors instantaneously," he said.
Col. Allen, who was named commandant this year, said he worried that upperclassmen were relying on the spot correction as a crutch when they couldn't think of better ways to get plebes to learn from mistakes.
He also questioned its relevance as a teaching tool because it is not used after plebe summer.
His decision to halt it had troubled the upperclassmen, known as detailers, who run plebe summer.
But within days, the detailers say, they created alternatives that work through inspiration rather than intimidation.
When a plebe in Chuck Bunton's platoon lets his military bearing go slack, "I go right up to his ear and whisper, 'You really disappointed me.'"
"It hurts them more than me giving them push-ups," he said.


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