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Naval Academy leaders removed two midshipmen from a color guard that performed at the World Series last week because they were white men, and replaced them with a non-white man and a white woman so the academy could present a more "diverse" profile, according to several sources, a move that has reportedly angered mids and alumni.
As it turned out, the color guard still ended up all white because the male replacement forgot parts of his uniform.
Two white, male members of the color guard learned Oct. 28 they were being replaced with a white woman, Midshipman 2nd Class Hannah Allaire, and a non-white man, Midshipman 2nd Class Zishan Hameed, on orders of the school's administration, according to an internal e-mail message provided to Navy Times by an academy professor. With a national television audience, Naval Academy leadership worried the color guard it planned to send wasn't diverse enough, the e-mail said.
However, after the color guard arrived in New York for the game Oct. 29, Hameed, whose family is from Pakistan, realized he had left his dress shoes and cover in Annapolis. Midshipman 1st Class Aaron Stroud regained his place and served as a rifleman for the presentation of the colors. Allaire carried the other rifle and the four original members marched with the flags.
Naval Academy spokesman Cmdr. Joe Carpenter responded to questions about the midshipmen replacements in a written statement Thursday after the color guard story was first reported on the blog "CDR Salamander."
Carpenter quoted a statement from Naval Academy Commandant Capt. Matt Klunder, who said he wanted to respond to questions about why some of the members of the color guard weren't able to march at the World Series.
Academy officials actually sent an eight-person color guard to the baseball game, Klunder said, but the full squad couldn't perform after Hameed forgot part of his uniform, because color guards need an even number of members. So it wasn't that the academy administration yanked members of the color guard because they were white men, it's that Hameed's "uniform inventory problem," as Klunder called it, meant that only six mids could march, instead of eight.
But a Naval Academy press release on the morning of the game said six mids were presenting the colors at the World Series, and identified them all by name. Stroud and the other white male mid who had been cut went to the game, according to the e-mail obtained by Navy Times — fortunate, because Stroud was needed to take Hameed's place — but they never expected to be able to march that night.
Carpenter said the initial press release included only six names because the public affairs office didn't know who else would be joining the World Series color guard. When it learned the names of the other two, the public affairs staff decided it would be too late to put out an updated announcement, he said.
The administration's decision upset many of the mids, according to the e-mail. But after Klunder heard complaints about the situation from alumni and family members, the brigade's company commanders were ordered to tell their midshipmen they were forbidden from discussing the color guard story with people outside the Yard, according to a source familiar with the situation who was not authorized to discuss it.
The source said current midshipmen and alumni were frustrated that one of them was denied the chance to march at the World Series, despite having earned it, and that the administration was trying to squelch discussion of it.
Carpenter said he didn't know who told the midshipmen not to talk about the situation.
The Naval Academy color guard, which is a voluntary extracurricular group, has 28 total members from all four classes.