Several weeks ago I wrote about Navy Captain Owen Honors, the commander of the USS Enterprise, who was removed from command after questionable “morale boosting” videos surfaced from a couple of years before. The videos included anti-gay slurs, simulated masturbation, and other content that was arguably inappropriate to share.
Now Captain Honors is going on record that several senior leaders above him knew all about the videos, and that he was never given any negative feedback from superiors about the videos.
This is a bit of a contradiction to his repeated comments in the videos, in which he frequently said that the Captain (Honors was the executive officer in 2006 and 2007, when the videos were filmed and shared) and the Admiral weren’t in any way responsible for the content. But come on, did anyone really think that the commanding officer of the Enterprise didn’t know about a regular video series that was routinely broadcast to the entire crew?
Capt. Honors has given a 15-page statement to Navy investigators, which was reviewed by the Navy Times newspaper, in which he states that the XO Movie Night series was produced with “affirmative and tacit approval of senior Navy leadership” including the two commanding officers during that time frame, as well as the two admirals serving as strike group commanders “and myriad other senior military and civilian distinguished visitors” during the two years in question.
This statement has placed those senior leaders in a bit of a pickle. One of them, Rear Admiral Larry Rice (who was captain of the Enterprise from December 2004 to May 2007) was actually set to retire on February 1st of this year, but his retirement is being held pending the outcome of this investigation.
Rear Admiral Raymond Spicer, who was the commander of the strike group (and Rice’s superior) from August 2005 to February 2007, may actually be called out of retirement specifically to face a court martial over this issue, according to military legal experts.
Clearly the Navy is taking this very, very seriously. In a press release announcing that Capt. Honors had been relieved of his command of the Enterprise, the Navy’s Public Affairs Office had this explanation:
It is fact that as naval officers we are held to a higher standard. Those in command must exemplify the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment which we expect our Sailors to follow. Our leaders must be above reproach and our Sailors deserve nothing less.
As I said in my previous post on this subject, I applaud the Navy for expecting its commanders to behave like officers and gentlemen (or ladies, as the case may be) but I still think this is an overreaction. I think taking down senior officers, especially retired senior officers, over this will only serve to put people on the defensive, rather than educating people about diversity, sexism, and the like.
This could have been a great teaching moment, and a chance for senior officers to show that they’ve changed their behavior, and for others to model their behavior after a more positive example set by commanders. Instead, the investigation will be perceived by many as a witch-hunt held in the name of political correctness.