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Navy plebes scale Herndon Monument in record time

By Ed O'Keefe

(Video by the Associated Press)

As they have for 70 years, Navy freshmen -- known as plebes -- celebrated the end of their grueling first year at the U.S. Naval Academy by scaling a 21-foot obelisk. They did it a lot faster than usual this year without 200 pounds of lard coating the monument.

A plebe reached the top of the obelisk Monday afternoon in two minutes, five seconds. No one was injured. No one even got particularly dirty. The sense of collective letdown might have been captured best in the words scrawled onto one midshipman's T-shirt: "Where's the grease?"

As colleague Daniel de Vise reports today, Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler instructed the midshipmen not to grease the obelisk this year. It was a gesture of his dissatisfaction with an event that, for all its rich, greasy history, has raised safety concerns with academy leaders. In 2008, four midshipmen sustained injuries in the climb serious enough for ambulance trips to the hospital. All four recovered.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | May 25, 2010; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Video Report, Workplace Issues  
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The climbing of Herndon monument and the replacing of the plebe Dixie cup hat with a midshipmsn cover is an event full of symbology and tradition. Scores of classes and tens of thousands of plebes have full, rich memories of being part of the team that conquered Herndon together. By not greasing it and barring the use of hoses, VADM Fowler has taken every bit of challenge and teamwork away from this class as it will never be viewed as the same. Whether safety concerns or political correctness the reason, the plebe class of 2013 was denied its opportunity to become true sharing members of the Brigade of Midshipmen. Although we speak of future fighter pilots, Marine warriors, and nuclear submariners who will soon go into harm's way, the lesson they have been taught here by Fowler will forever be remembered as forsaken true teamwork and tradition for CYA expediency as he slowly fades away from USNA.

Posted by: navy8209 | May 25, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

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