No self-promotion on Kerrey, SEAL sites

"G. I. Jane " the recently released movie starring Demi Moore as the first woman allowed to train for the honored and demanding Navy SEALs offers up a one-dimensional and comic book take on Special Operations Forces (SOFs) that bears little relation to reality. Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets come woven from more complex and interesting material than the very thin cloth that director Ridley Scott stitched together as a late-summer diversion in "G.I. Jane."

Web cruisers wanting to find other dimensions to the SEAL persona should start out with a visit to the delightful - and even quirky - home page (www.senate.gov/~kerrey/) of Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) who won the Medal of Honor during his service as a SEAL in Vietnam.

Real SEALs and Green Berets tend to understate their accomplishments in battle a fact driven home on Kerrey's Web page which buries mention of his medal and his Vietnam service deep inside the site. Instead Kerrey among other things uses his Web page to push his passions for advanced telecommunications especially the ability of new systems and technologies to enhance the lives of rural Americans.

While other senators use their Web pages as one-way political billboards Kerrey has turned his into a two-way medium for the folks back home in Nebraska. He invites Nebraskans to join in a collaborative "experiment to make this one of the most exciting home pages" in the country. Free of the self-serving boilerplate found on many congressional home pages Kerrey's site already has made a good start toward his goal.

The Kerrey Web site features a bit of education - click on the "Quiz?" button for a delightful tutorial on Washington D.C. monuments - showcases kids' writing and artwork and offers up a marvelous collection of self-deprecating jokes about Congress (www.senate.gov/~ kerrey/laughs.html). Here's a good one:

"Do you pray for the senators Dr. Hale?" someone asked the chaplain.

"No I look at the senators and pray for the country."

Because it is hard for anyone - even a former SEAL - to round up all the Congress-bashing jokes Kerrey uses his Web page to invite people to send him more. Maybe he will start a laughs subsection featuring SEAL Demi Moore and "G.I. Jane" jokes.

The official SEAL - which stands for Sea Air and Land - and Green Beret Web page on the Web also comes off quite understated compared with the movie. The SEAL home page (webix.nosc.mil/seals/) takes a no-nonsense aim at potential recruits within the Navy itself offering up just four clickable buttons that guide visitors to an overview of SEAL history training requirements and contacts. The cleanly designed SEAL home page also offers 10 clickable photos of training at the SEAL facility at Coronado Calif. that depict the rigors involved minus the histrionics of "G.I. Jane."

Unofficial SEAL pages abound on the Web with a number dedicated to the selling of SEAL videos pictures and memorabilia. Many of these pages operate at a high-testosterone level and should do well in the wake of the movie.

A good starting point is the U.S. Special Operations Unofficial Home Page (www.specialoperations.com). Click on the SEAL Links button and up pop five pages of links including some that will lead to those devoted solely to Special Boat Units which transport the SEALs.

The U.S. Army Special Operations Command Green Beret page (www.usasoc.mil) offers much more information than the official SEAL page and does so with little hype. Especially appealing is the SOF Truths section accessed by a button that offers up two concepts hard to find inside the Beltway: "Humans are more important than hardware" and "Quality is better than quantity."

The Army Special Operations Command site offers an excellent concise history of SOF forces (wwww.usasoc.soc.mil/sof-hist.htm) dating back to the Revolutionary War and featuring well-written sketches of SOF units in World War II and Vietnam as well as vignettes from Panama and Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf War.

Anyone who wants to take a closer online look at Green Beret units in Vietnam now can tap into the official Army history of SOF forces which the Army posted late last month on its home page (www.army.mil/cfdocs/default.cfm). Unfortunately both these histories make a non-person out of Col. Bob Rheault commander of the 5th Special Forces Group in 1968 when the Berets "eliminated" a Vietnamese double agent.

The details of that case - which for a time saw Rheault jailed in the Army's Saigon stockade - epitomize the real-world complexities of a special operator's job issues that were barely touched in "G.I. Jane " which emphasizes brawn over brains.

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