Military milestone

The armed services never give up traditions without a struggle, but the military academies have just ended a timeworn one with cheers, handshakes, and hugs. The first women to receive their comissions from the service academies provided added reason this year for the air over West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force and Coast Guard academies to be filled with the exhilaration of victory and the flying hats that have long symbolized the transition from cadet to officer.

It took an act of Congress to get women into the academies four years ago. The female cadets were met with the skepticism of "old soldiers" who doubted they had the strength and stamina to survive the toughest field training and academic demands the military could dish out. Many of their fellow cadets did not try to hide their dislike of women invading this particular male bastion. But in the finest military tradition, the women of the class of '80 exhibited the courage and determination to press ahead in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. In the end, they earned the respect of their military peers and proved that, yes, they have what it takes to be a "leader of men."

So accepted were the Naval Academy's female graduates that Admiral T. B. Hayward, chief of naval operations, was moved to urge, "It's time people stopped making first of these young women." But as Andrea Hollen, the first of West Point's women to graduate, aptly put it, "We'll always be first, but we're not tokens anymore."

The US military, it seems, launched a newm tradition this week.

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