WASHINGTON — Worried about the Army's ability to withstand its recent sex scandals? Bothered by the Navy's difficulties with the Tailhook affair? Convinced that the idea of integrating women in the armed forces is doomed?
What's a troubled military veteran to do?
Try running a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, which is what Richard A. Frederick did last Monday. A retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, Frederick caught the Pentagon's attention by blaring in big, bold type his concern that something had gone awry and military leaders were part of the problem.
What Frederick had in mind was what he considers the military's disastrous acquiescence to the feminist movement. But he was quite elliptical in print, making no direct mention of women in the military.
Framing his ad as a memo to "flag and general officers, all services," Frederick listed the subject simply as: "Failure."
"By your silence and inaction," he began, "you are abetting the destruction of the warrior spirit in the U.S. armed forces."
He then included a quotation from Gen. Douglas MacArthur's famous 1962 farewell address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point: "The long gray line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray would rise from their white crosses, thundering those magic words: duty, honor, country."
Next came the notation "cc: Your Country," followed by Frederick's mailing address in The Woodlands, Texas.
Top Air Force officials didn't quite know what to make of the ad. They ordered a report on Frederick's military record, learning that he won a Silver Star in Vietnam flying F-105 Thunderchiefs, single-engine jet fighters that are now obsolete. He retired from active duty in 1971, worked for a time as a manager in a fiberglass plant. He now flies planes for a major oil company.
But his newspaper-sized memo left Air Force leaders scratching their heads.
"The ad was viewed by the leadership of the Air Force, who collectively were unsure what message he was trying to communicate," a senior spokesman said.
Reached by phone at his home in Texas, Frederick, 55, explained that his main complaint has to do with the integration of women in the military.
"You do not need men and women in close proximity to one another during combat," he said. "You don't need to have their attention diverted. A lot of these operations become brutal, and I don't think it's right to mix men and women together in a brutal environment.
"If women want to be in combat," he went on, "they should be in units separate from men."
A full-page ad in national editions of the Wall Street Journal costs $137,302.56, but because Frederick's lament appeared only in the Washington-Baltimore edition, it cost him $10,425.12.
"About the price of a new motorcycle," he said. "To me, it was the equivalent of being relegated to writing on a latrine wall."