Former Carl Vinson skipper to lead Naval Academy

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A former “Top Gun” pilot who recently led the school that teaches the nation’s Navy leaders has been chosen by President Barack Obama to head the U.S. Naval Academy, the defense secretary said Friday.

The appointment of Rear Adm. Walter Carter comes as the military struggles to end sexual assault in its ranks, including at the Naval Academy.

Carter is a recipient of the Navy’s Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale Leadership Award, a prestigious leadership award recognizing high standards in ethical conduct. He spoke about the importance of ethics in military officers in 2012 during an interview with Shipmate, the academy’s alumni magazine.

“I believe that all Americans have an expectation that everyone in the fleet, enlisted sailors through admirals, will behave ethically and professionally, especially as we complete 40 years as an all-volunteer force,” Carter said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also emphasized the importance of ethics in a speech last month to graduating academy students after a difficult year that included the prosecution of three academy football players accused of sexually assaulting a classmate. Charges against two were dropped, and the third man was acquitted. The case became public shortly after Obama emphasized the importance of ending sexual assault in the military in a speech to last year’s graduating class.

Carter told the alumni magazine that failures in character and judgment greatly affect the entire branch.

“These lapses erode the trust and confidence of not only the crew within the fleet, but also, the American people in us as their Navy,” he said.

Carter, a native of Burrillville, Rhode Island, has been president of the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, since last year.

He would succeed Vice Adm. Michael Miller, who became the 61st superintendent of the academy in 2010 and is retiring.

During Miller’s tenure, he oversaw the prosecution of the three football players, including deciding to go forward with the case against two of the men despite the recommendation of an investigating officer who said it would be difficult to prove because of credibility issues involving the alleged victim. Miller said later that he decided to move forward because it was his duty to make sure the charges were fully examined. Ultimately, the case fell apart.

Miller’s years at the academy also saw efforts to increase cybersecurity expertise among future naval officers. For instance, the academy began requiring freshmen to take a semester on cybersecurity and it offered for the first time a major in cyber operations.

Carter, whose appointment requires U.S. Senate approval, would be promoted to vice admiral.

He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1981 and would be the first superintendent to have attended the academy with female midshipmen as members of his class; women were admitted for the first time in 1976.

Carter was designated a naval flight officer in 1982. Carter graduated from the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, what was known as the “Top Gun” school, in the last F-4 Phantom class in 1985. He has commanded the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group 12. He also was commander of the USS Carl Vinson, one of the Navy’s largest nuclear-powered super carriers. He has flown 125 combat missions.

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