You can always tell a Navy man. It has something to do with the way he stands. Especially when he's standing in front of a judge telling him that there are times -- most notably, spring break on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., -- when the sea and sand don't mix.
For the first time anyone can remember, six midshipmen from Annapolis found the shore more than they could handle. They numbered among the hundreds arrested between March 1 and Easter for fighting, drinking, hanging around prostitutes and loitering too long on the strip of beach where boys chase girls, girls chase boys and beer chases beer after beer.
"You could always tell the kids from the Navy," said Judge Steven Shutter, who handled the dozens of misdemeanor charges that showed up in the Broward County Court. "When they stood up, they came to attention. And when they talked they didn't go more than five words without saying a 'sir.'
"I would ask them, 'Are you going back to school on Monday?' 'Yes, sir!'
" 'Are you ever going to drink again?'
" 'No, sir!' . . . . I loved the way they said that."
The Naval Academy ranked near the top -- a position it usually likes in intra-school competitions -- in Broward arrest records this spring. But it was nudged out for first by the enthusiasm of its neighbor in College Park.
The University of Maryland tied for the No. 1 spot with Michigan State, having nine each of the 280 revelers sent to jail by Fort Lauderdale. The Naval Academy and Ohio State tied for third, with six students. New Hampshire and Massachusetts universities took fifth place with five students each. East Carolina had two students taken into custody.
Of the total from the 180 schools represented in the arrests, 153 students were charged with disorderly conduct, 40 with resisting arrest, 30 with urinating in public. Despite their high rank, the Maryland students did nothing distinguished. "They just got sick and threw up a lot," Shutter said.
Academy administrators were quick yesterday to call the ranking a less-than-honorable position. "Obviously, this isn't the kind of behavior we want from our future leaders," said Cmdr. Kendell Pease. "I don't know who was involved, but we think appropriate action should be taken."
Pease said he did not know the names of the students, 18- to 22 year-olds arrested on various charges of trespassing, prowling and disturbing the peace. Police refused to release the names, but said the youths were arrested for allegedly fighting, trying to throw a girl in a hotel pool, talking to prostitutes and taking a bottle of suntan oil from a local drugstore. Shutter said he didn't remember their names.
"The last guy, who took the suntan oil, was arrested for petty theft and could've been fingerprinted. I couldn't see doing that to him and getting him thrown out," Shutter said. "So I had him write out 250 times, 'I will not steal.'
"It just goes to show that even the fellows in the Navy are human. And at 19 years old, I would be more concerned if all they wanted to do was walk back and forth and salute."