WASHINGTON - The acting Navy secretary, vowing to purge the "hard-drinking, skirt-chasing, anything-goes philosophy" behind the Tailhook sexual-abuse scandal, has ordered a service-wide "stand-down" so that every officer and enlisted person can take a full day's training on Navy sexual harassment rules.
In a stern, sometimes angry speech delivered privately to 300 senior Navy and Marine Corps officers on Wednesday and released yesterday, Acting Secretary J. Daniel Howard blamed the scandal on "a decaying culture" and the "toleration of stone-age attitudes about warriors returning from the sea."
The stand-down, an unusual step that has been used in the past to review safety procedures, will be carried out on a rotating basis worldwide over the next two months. Last week, Navy Secretary H. Lawrence Garrett resigned amid questions about his role in handling the Tailhook scandal, which erupted following reports that women were sexually assaulted at a convention of Navy and Marine aviators in Las Vegas last fall.
In another blow to the Navy's scandal-weary flying fraternity, two senior officers were relieved of command Wednesday in connection with a sexually "offensive" skit by Navy F-14 Tomcat pilots lampooning Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., during a party two weeks ago at Miramar Naval Air Station near San Diego.
Navy officials said the skit was performed at the officer's club at Miramar, home of the "Top Gun" fighter-pilot school, during an annual revue known as "Tomcat Follies." Several of the fliers, bearing pictures of scantily clad women, held aloft a poster making reference to Schroeder and oral sex.
Schroeder is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee who frequently has criticized sexist attitudes in the Navy and pressed for a full accounting of the Tailhook episode.
The chief of naval operations, Adm. Frank Kelso, who was described by an associate as "just stunned" by the latest embarrassment, paid a visit to Schroeder Wednesday to apologize.
The skit was performed by members of VF-51, one of two Tomcat squadrons on the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, which is currently at sea in the western Pacific. The commanding officer of the squadron, Cmdr. David Tyler, was ordered to fly back to North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego, where he was relieved of command Wednesday by Vice Adm. Edwin Kohn, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Naval Air Force.
Kohn also relieved Capt. Skip Braden, who is chief of staff to the commander of the Pacific Early Warning Air Wing, the umbrella group for fighters and early warning aircraft in the Pacific Fleet.
Braden was the senior officer in the club at the time.
Officials said the two men have been relieved pending the outcome of the investigation and that more officers could also be disciplined.