Aiming to Set Example, for Women and Men Alike

"I can honestly say I never felt like a trailblazer," said Capt. Margaret D. Klein, the U.S. Naval Academy's first female commandant. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
By Raymond McCaffrey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 22, 2006

The week before Capt. Margaret D. Klein became the U.S. Naval Academy's first female commandant, Marine Maj. Megan M. McClung became the academy's first female graduate to die in the Iraq conflict.

The week that Klein took office, her boss announced that he was removing himself from consideration of a rape case amid criticism from some alumni about his advocacy of women at the school.

The events of the past two weeks demonstrate how far the cause of women at Annapolis has come and how controversial it remains.

As she assumes the academy's No. 2 slot, Klein said she hopes to set an example not just for the women there but for male midshipmen as well.

"I can honestly say I never felt like a trailblazer," Klein said in an interview yesterday with reporters, adding: "If the female midshipmen relate to that, I think it's an excellent byproduct."

Klein also said that her job is foremost to teach leadership skills to the 4,000 or so midshipmen who will soon become part of the war on terrorism.

"They need to be ready," said Klein, 49, who graduated from the academy in 1981 with the second class to include women.

Klein was appointed by the academy's superintendent, Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, who came to the academy with a reputation as a leader in advancing the role of women in the military.

Rempt has since won praise for targeting problems he has identified at the academy: alcohol abuse, sexual misconduct and honor violations.

Some alumni, though, believe Rempt has pandered to special-interest groups and to congressional critics in his zealous handling of high-profile sexual assault cases, particularly the rape case brought this year against former Navy quarterback Lamar S. Owens. Rempt announced last week that he was recusing himself from considering the case against Owens, who was cleared of raping a female midshipman but found guilty of other charges.

Klein declined to address any ongoing cases involving midshipmen. As for her working relationship with Rempt, she said: "Certainly his priorities are my priorities."

She said she supported continuing the shore patrol in downtown Annapolis, which responds to problems involving midshipmen, particularly those drinking heavily.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company