Inside the Ring

Article excerpt

LOVE BOAT, A PROLOGUE

The USS Acadia anchored itself in infamy during the Persian Gulf war. When the repair ship returned to port, the Navy totaled up an astounding number of on-board pregnancies, earning the Acadia the unwanted nickname "Love Boat."

Perhaps Capt. Gerald Grunwald, a former skipper, could have predicted the sex at sea. The officer, who has since retired, wrote a prescient memo two years before the war, warning the Navy not to move too quickly in a push to put more women on ships. A two-page analysis, a copy of which was obtained by Inside the Ring, covered such topics as pregnancies, fraternization and lesbianism.

His comments highlight problems with which the Navy continues to grapple six years after the war and four years after putting women on warships as well as support vessels. A sampling:

* "No one knows what the fraternization policy is. The Navy instruction is too vague."

* "When a ship is deployed and loses a female crew member because of pregnancy, the increased workload per person in the affected work center is significant. Replacements are not ordered in soon enough."

* "Do not expand too fast. The Navy needs to ensure that there is adequate senior female leadership on board."

* "Lesbianism is a big problem on board a ship: 13 percent of the female population on board one ship were suspected lesbians. Lesbians `banded' together against non-lesbians: A large number of female temporary [master-at-arms] force were lesbians. They would ignore violations by other lesbians and single out non-lesbians for the most minor infractions and place them on report. Non-lesbians felt intimidated/uncomfortable/solicited by lesbians (e.g. in the showers and heads). The trend seemed to be that the more senior females enlisted there were, the greater the lesbian population."

Rear Adm. Kendell Pease, chief Navy spokesman, tells Inside the Ring that Capt. Grunwald's report was one of scores of "candid views" solicited from commanders as the Navy embarked on its "Women at Sea" program.

By the way, you won't have the Acadia to kick around anymore. The Navy decommissioned the 13-year-old destroyer tender in 1994 - a victim of armed forces downsizing, not embarrassment.

HIGH ANXIETY

The sorry state of morale in today's shrunken but busy U.S. Air Force is partly blamed on "stress." Rand Corp., the military's weighty think tank, did a private study documenting pilot angst over high-deployment rates. Rand concluded their stress level is "too high."

Inside the Ring has obtained another internal report on jet jockeys' mental health. Written by the Air Force Studies and Analysis Agency, the 62-page compilation of bar charts and stats seeks to "quantify and measure the negative effects" of frequent flying. …