Showing that the boys-will-be-boys Navy is a thing of the past – once again – the service said late Thursday that it will punish 40 officers and senior enlisted sailors for helping produce a series of crude sexually-laced videos shown to the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise from 2005 to 2007.
There was no immediate reaction to the spanking from the crew of the Enterprise, whose 6,000 sailors are now lurking near Libya in the Red Sea, primed to act if President Obama orders them to help impose a no-fly zone over Muammar Gaddafi’s North African nation torn by civil strife and violence.
But initial reaction from current and former Navy officers and sailors was biting. “How did we end up with people who are offended in charge instead of people who would bite an enemy’s jugular out with his teeth if given the chance?” GIMP wrote on a popular naval blog. “This is the military and our job is killing…My God, just put the ships in drydock, the planes in preservation and line up to get your castrations.”
Adm. John Harvey, the head of the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command, said he has urged that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus issue “secretarial letters of censure” to Capt. Owen Honors and a pair of rear admirals. Harvey relieved Honors of command of the Enterprise in January, shortly before the carrier set sail for combat duty near Afghanistan. Honors exhibited a “profound lack of judgment” and the behavior portrayed on the “violates long-standing norms of exemplary conduct,” the Navy said in a statement. Honors appeared in many of the 25 videos, which most sailors seemed to enjoy as a respite from long days on duty. They showed simulated masturbation, bathroom humor and poked fun at gays.
“The Navy’s officers and sailors are truly remarkable individuals, the finest young men and women our country has to offer, and they deserve principled leadership,” Harvey said from his headquarters in Norfolk. “These events on Enterprise were unfortunate and an aberration.”
Also recommended for censure were Honors’ former boss, Rear Adm. Lawrence Rice, commanding officer of the Enterprise from January 2005 to May 2007; Capt. John Dixon, executive officer – the No. 2 officer aboard — of the Enterprise from September 2007 to June 2009; and Dixon’s former boss, Rear Adm. Ron Horton, commanding officer of the Enterprise from May 2007 to May 2010. Harvey also issued non-punitive letters to Rear Adm. Raymond Spicer and Vice Adm. Daniel Holloway, who commanded battle groups while serving aboard the Enterprise when the videos were shown. The letters, assuming they are endorsed by Mabus, effectively end the officers’ careers.
The episode echoes 1991’s Tailhook scandal, when Navy aviators sexually assaulted women at their annual convention in Las Vegas. The Navy got the message, at least for awhile, and it integrated boot camp and rushed women into warplane cockpits.
The Navy found itself in a pickle after relieving Honors of command Jan. 4 following the posting of some of the videos by the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. Former Enterprise sailors, including women, joined groups supporting Honors on Facebook, and there was little criticism heard from inside the Navy’s rank and file.
While the videos generated outrage among the public, Navy officers noted initially that superiors had told Honors back in 2007 they were out of line and that he should stop producing them. Yet when he was relieved of command after they became public, Navy officers vented that Honors was being punished twice for the same offense, and complained that the service wasn’t backing a popular officer who already had been rebuked.
“This investigation regardless of how it turns out has already sent an unintended message to the JO’s [junior officers] and Chief’s mess,” a poster with the handle Skippy-san said on the popular Cmdr. Salamander blog late Thursday. “Don’t trust your leadership to care about you.”
UPDATE: You can see all the videos here.