NORFOLK, VIRGINIA – Adm. John C. Harvey announced today that he has permanently relieved Capt. Owen Honors as commanding officer of the aircraft carrier Enterprise for showing “exceptionally poor judgment” in producing and broadcasting a series of raunchy videos to his crew in 2006 and 2007.
Harvey, the four-star head of the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command, said that Capt. Dee Mewbourne, former commander of the carrier Eisenhower, will take command of the ship today as Honors’ permanent replacement. Mewbourne had been at Navy Cyber Forces.
Harvey acknowledged that this is a difficult time for the ship’s crew and their families. The carrier is due to deploy later this month to the Middle East. He said he has “absolute confidence” in their readiness.
Harvey added that the Navy’s investigation into the videos is continuing and said it will look at all aspects of the matter, including “the actions of other senior officers who knew of the videos and the actions they took in response.”
Honors has been reassigned to administrative duties at Naval Air Force Atlantic.
Harvey said that Honors’ performance since he took command of the Enterprise in May has been without incident.
Nonetheless, he said, “The foundation of our success in the Navy lies in our ability to gain and hold the trust of our sailors, including through personal example. This responsibility is so important that it is written into Navy regulations. When confidence and trust are lost in those who lead, we fail. After personally reviewing the videos created while serving as executive officer, I have lost confidence in Capt. Honors’ ability to lead effectively. … 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.”
No phone listing was immediately available for Honors and he did not respond to e-mails.
The offending videos became public this weekend, proving an embarrassment to the Pentagon.
The videos, released by The Virginian-Pilot and PilotOnline.com on Saturday and Monday, feature Honors using gay slurs, pantomiming masturbation and staging suggestive shower scenes. They were played on the shipwide television system during weekly movie nights when Honors was executive officer, or second in command, of the Enterprise. Honors has since become commander of the ship.
Over the weekend, the Navy at first downplayed the videos as “humorous skits,” then called them “not acceptable” and said they were under investigation.
The videos’ existence was not news to Navy higher-ups. In a statement to The Virginian-Pilot on Friday, the Navy said its leadership had put a stop to videos with “inappropriate content” on the Enterprise about four years ago.
Michael Corgan, a career Navy officer who now teaches at Boston University, said before today’s news that Honors was guilty not only of an error in judgment but of failing to recognize a changing Navy culture.
“Standards shift, of course, and trimming your sails is something you have to do if you’re going to command people in the Navy,” Corgan said. “This guy showed poor judgment.”
The military has undergone a cultural shift in recent decades away from the loutish, frat-boy behavior that was exposed by the Tailhook scandal in 1991. It is now working to accommodate gays in its ranks with Congress’ repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Also, the Navy is opening its all-male submarine force to women this year.
Corgan said the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell probably had nothing to do with the furor now: “What he did would have been dumb 30, 40 years ago.”
Some sailors who served on the Enterprise have taken to Facebook to defend Honors and his video skits for providing a much-needed morale boost during long deployments at sea.
They portrayed Honors as a man who genuinely cared about his sailors and helped them blow off steam with corny and occasionally outrageous videos he concocted every week during six-month tours of duty in the Middle East at the height of the Iraq War. Maintaining morale is typically part of the XO’s job.
“He was a caring professional and, yes, he has a sense of humor, but you need that on a boat,” said Misty Davis, who served on the Enterprise from 2006 to 2010. The offending video was shown in 2007, and was a compilation of previous videos he had shown, she and others said.
“It’s no worse than anything you’d see on ‘Saturday Night Live’ or ‘The Family Guy,’” Davis said Monday. “I used to watch all of them. They were freaking hilarious.”
One other Facebook page has arisen calling for Honors’ resignation, and the Facebook page for the Enterprise itself includes arguments on both sides.
from The Virginian-Pilot
Navy Investigating Inappropriate Videos Aboard USS Enterprise