- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 21, 2006

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Female graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy and advocates for women in the military are hailing the appointment of Capt. Margaret D. Klein as the first female commandant of midshipmen at the academy, which has faced continuing problems with sexual harassment and assault.

Capt. Klein will serve as No. 2 in the academy’s chain of command behind Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt. The position of commandant is equivalent to dean of students at a civilian university.

Her appointment Friday comes about a year after a Pentagon task force recommended the academy promote women to reverse a culture deemed “hostile” toward them.

“The doorways are open to everyone,” said Nancy Sullenger, a member of the academy’s class of 1980 — its first to graduate women. “I think our class started that, but every class after has contributed.”

Capt. Klein, 49, a native of Weymouth, Mass., graduated from the academy in 1981 and holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Southern Maine.

She replaces Capt. Bruce E. Grooms, who became the highest-ranking black in the academy’s leadership when he was named commandant of midshipmen in May 2005. Capt. Grooms has been promoted to rear admiral and will serve as deputy director in the Navy’s policy office for submarine forces.

Ann Munch, director of the advocacy group Ending Violence Against Women, said Capt. Klein’s presence in the leadership ranks should help improve the climate for female midshipmen. She said the climate at the U.S. Air Force Academy improved markedly under the leadership of Col. Debra Gray, who retired this year.

“It’s always good to see the numbers evening out in the military,” Mrs. Munch said. “It’s a natural progression, as it should be.”

According to a 2005 report by the Pentagon’s inspector general, more than half of the women enrolled at the country’s three military academies said they had been sexually harassed, and more than one in 10 said they had been sexually assaulted.

The Naval Academy released a survey in March showing a growing number of female midshipmen who think students who report sexual misconduct won’t be resented. However, less than half of the female midshipmen said they felt the school provides a positive environment for women.

Former Navy quarterback Lamar Owens was acquitted in August on charges that he raped a female midshipman in her dorm room. Another former football player, Kenny Ray Morrison, faces a court-martial on charges of raping and drugging two female midshipmen during separate incidents this year.

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