NAVAL STATION NORFOLK, Va. — In the wake of a series of high-profile scandals involving top-ranking Air Force and Army officials, the Navy's senior leadership is scrambling to bolster its image of sexual prowess in order to compete with the other services for officer recruits.
"After Tailhook, we rode high for years," said Rear Adm. Thomas Marotta, deputy commander of the U.S. Navy Recruiting Command, referring to the widely publicized sexual-harassment scandal in the 1990's which ensnared more than 100 Navy and Marine Corps officers, yet which some experts credit with the Navy's recruiting boom through the latter half of the decade.
"For the last twenty years at least, the Navy was the go-to branch for men hoping to become officers and get a little piece of something on the side," Marotta added. "But lately, it seems like we've really dropped the ball."
In recent years, the Army has become the frontrunner of the services with regard to sexual scandals, such as the widely publicized story of Col. James Johnson, former commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, who married an Iraqi woman, despite still being married to his then-wife, Kris, while fraudulently obtaining government contracts for the Iraqi woman's father.
Likewise, former Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, with the 82nd Airborne division, was acquitted of charges of forcible sodomy against a female junior officer but was forced to retire at a reduced rank. The fact that the subordinate was later quoted as saying, "In a really f***ed-up way, I still love him," has certainly helped the Army's cause.
The Air Force has its own share of high-profile sexual scandals, such as that of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, stationed at Aviano Air Base, Italy, whose sexual-assault verdict was thrown out by Lt. Gen. Craig A. Franklin, 3rd Air Force commanding general.
These are the sorts of stories that Navy recruiters once used to lure prospective officer candidates. Now, those waters are drying up, says Marotta, as top ranks behave with "alarmingly and unsustainably high" propriety.
"These days, everything's so buttoned-down and fem-friendly here on the Navy side that all the type-A, fighter-jock personalities we used to haul in by the truckload are going right across the hall to the Army and Air Force," Marotta noted. "We just don't have the big-balls, hairy-chested macho warrior culture that we used to."
"Officer candidates are attracted by the lurid tales of hot, letters-to-Penthouse type office affairs, and they figure that they'll be one of the 99 out of a hundred who beat the odds and get away with it"
There certainly seems to be solid evidence to support the theory: Duffel Blog spoke with one prospective Army second lieutenant about his decision. His answer: "The girls. Flat-out. I'm looking at branching either Aviation or Medical. Just think about all the tail I'd be able to score with all those lonely female Black Hawk pilots on [Bagram Air Field]." He noted that it was precisely the heavy coverage of all the sex scandals within the Army that convinced him just how much sex there was to be had there.
Editor's Note: Admiral Marotta spoke on the record, but later requested anonymity, owing to the fact that Rear Admiral Annie Andrews, commander of NRC, would "totally cut [his] nuts off."