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Sailors won't sit still
for plan to can ships' urinals


By DAVE ADDIS (c) 2000, The Virginian-Pilot (9-20-00)

While it has not had the same impact on the Navy as the recent spate of ship collisions and groundings, a directive that's floating around the fleet has raised the hackles of a great many sailors.

They are PO'd -- if you'll pardon the indelicate pun -- by a proposal to overhaul the heads on Navy ships to remove the urinals and replace them with sit-down facilities.

Some see this as yet another dark plot hatched by a commander-in-chief who's been a bit wobbly when standing on his own two feet. Others see it as one more step toward the perdition of a politically correct, unisex Navy.

There's something to that last suspicion. The Navy memo, which surfaced in the Pacific Fleet and was first reported by The Washington Times, confesses that, shipboard, the ``current fixture ratio does not support effective mixed-gender accommodation management.''

Alarmed -- as he often is -- Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, who sits (whoops!)on the House Armed Services Committee, promised an investigation. The Maryland Republican fears that the proposal could hurt military readiness.

Maybe ol' Roscoe has a point. A sailor who is standing would be one step quicker to his battle station than a sailor who is seated. That's why, in baseball, a pitcher can get to a bunt faster than a catcher. And they don't even have to zip up first.

Beyond the gender-equality issue, the Navy argues that urinals are a problem because they clog easily, are prone to corrosion, and are smelly and difficult to clean.

A Norfolk-based public-affairs officer -- who begged, pleaded and whimpered that I not connect his name to this story in any way, shape or form -- admitted that the male-only shipboard facilities are a maintenance nightmare. ``That's the other side of the coin,'' he said. ``That's the main reason when most heads get secured: The urinals are clogged up.''

Then there's the sanitation issue, which Navy spokesmen tactfully described as an "over-spray" problem. Perhaps it's due to the swaying of the ship, or maybe a little unsteadiness after a night of liberty call, but it appears from the Navy's directive that it's not just the jet-jockeys who are in need of extra gunnery practice. Maybe the strategic placement of a few aerial photos of downtown Baghdad would help the boys sharpen their aim.

Meantime, the question of overhauling all the ships' heads, at $187,000 per conversion, may rest on the outcome of Rep. Bartlett's investigation. I'm confident he'll get to the bottom of it. On issues of military preparedness, he's proved to be a real whiz.

Contact Dave at 446-2726, at addis@worldnet.att.net or at www.pilotonline.com

Thanks to YNCS Don Harribine, USN(Ret), for this submission.





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