WASHINGTON -- The Navy is investigating allegations of "inappropriate conduct" by service members at a convention last week of the Tailhook Association, the naval aviators organization whose 1991 convention featured scandalous episodes of drunken debauchery, property damage and sexual assaults.
The Navy severed its ties to the Tailhook Association after the 1991 incident and just this year decided to resume sponsoring active-duty Navy and Marine Corps aviators' attendance at the annual gathering, which is a combination of aviation seminars, industry exhibits, parties, banquets and outdoor activities.
Though much less sensational than the 1991 Tailhook scandal, which shook the Navy at its highest levels, the latest allegation has triggered a probe by the Navy's inspector general, officials said Friday.
Details were sketchy and the Navy would not release the name of the person who made the complaint.
In a brief written statement, the Navy said it is looking into an allegation of inappropriate conduct by a group of service members during an encounter in the Nugget Hotel in Sparks, Nev., with a civilian couple who were staying at the Nugget but were not attending the Aug. 17-20 Tailhook convention.
The Navy's chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Steve Pietropaoli, said the Navy would not release the name of the individual who lodged the complaint on a telephone hot line that had been set up after the 1991 incident.
Pietropaoli said the man reported that he and his wife were in a crowded hallway in the hotel and that when the man asked the people -- apparently service members attending the convention -- to make room for the couple to pass, "inappropriate comments" were made to him and his wife.
The man also reported that someone in the group made inappropriate physical contact with his wife, although Pietropaoli was not more specific.
Navy spokesman Cmdr. Greg Smith said the man who lodged the complaint said a senior Navy officer apologized to him in person, but the man considered it to be "not sincere." The senior Navy officer, who was not identified by name, was at the hotel but not present during the confrontation, Smith said.
Smith said the circumstances of the apology, made the day after the alleged incident, will be part of the inspector general's investigation.
At the Nugget Hotel, spokesman Mike Greenan said a "noise and profanity complaint" was made last Friday night by a civilian couple staying at the hotel. "Security investigated it, got everybody cleared out of the hallway," he said, adding that he was not certain this was the same incident as reported by the Navy.
Sparks Police Sgt. Sherman Box said the department received no reports from or calls to the Nugget in connection with Tailhook.
The Tailhook Association is named for the hook on an aircraft that snags an arresting cable on the landing deck of an aircraft carrier. As of last year, it had about 10,000 members, down from a 1991 peak of about 16,000.
Lonnie McClung, a retired Navy captain and president of the Tailhook Association, said in a telephone interview Friday that his organization was surprised to hear about the complaint.
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