Jan 4, 2011
Raunchy Navy Videos & PC
Fire Capt. Honors? Not So Fast
By J.D. Gordon
January 4, 2011
As the mainstream media passes the megaphone to those calling for the ouster of Navy Capt. Owen Honors for his lewd videos shown years ago on board the USS Enterprise while serving as the ship's second-in-command, let's hope Navy leadership takes a hard look at his case before simply caving into political pressure and ending Honors' career prematurely.
Now the carrier's commanding officer, and just weeks away from leading the "Big E" on a six-month deployment to support combat operations in Afghanistan, Honors has been put on report by at least one sailor, who leaked the videos to The Virginian-Pilot, the ship's home port newspaper in Norfolk, Va., thus generating the current buzz.
While Honors' "Saturday Night Live"-style video clips, designed to introduce movie nights on the carrier, were patently raunchy, they should also be viewed in the proper context.
Though clearly inappropriate, as the Navy acknowledged in a statement over the weekend while announcing an investigation, the videos were taped during deployments supporting Iraq and Afghanistan combat operations, and were intended as a stress relief for some 6,000 sailors who were at work 24x7 over a six-month stretch at sea with only a few weeks in port.
Movie nights at sea have been around since World War II and provide sailors a chance to relax, even if for a couple of hours. As a recently retired Navy public affairs officer, I have helped produce my share of movie night clips on deployment, though they were admittedly tame by comparison.
The Tailhook scandal and resulting trial that sunk Adm. Frank Kelso, the chief of naval operations and the careers of dozens of other top naval officers in the early 1990s shook up the Navy's culture, making it considerably more politically correct. However, the salty talk and lewd behavior featured in the Enterprise videos is still not uncommon in the Navy, especially after long periods at sea.
One anonymous sailor, a videographer who helped make the videos, had it about right, as reported by The Virginian-Pilot, "In his defense, I'll say that sometimes, when you've been out to sea for a while, cut off from everything, you start to think things that you would never normally do are actually a good idea," he said. "You do stupid stuff to stay sane."
As Navy leaders conduct the investigation, they should consider the overall crew reaction and Honors' reputation with the men and women he served alongside. According to a Time magazine report, it seems the Enterprise's crew has overwhelmingly expressed support for the embattled skipper, with 1,200 clicking "like" on his Facebook page, along with ringing endorsements in the comments section.
Whatever one thinks of the videos, it does appear that Honors is guilty of poor taste and failure to keep up with the times, which have become more politically correct even since the Tailhook scandal's aftermath.
News reports late Monday suggested that the Navy will probably relieve Honors of his command. But while doing so might solve a short-term PR problem for the Navy, it would be counterproductive in the long term and unfair to Honors' distinguished military career, and would likely drive down morale.
J.D. Gordon is a communications consultant to four Washington, D.C.,
think tanks and a retired Navy commander who served in the office of
the secretary of defense as the Pentagon spokesman for the Western
Hemisphere. For more info, visit www.jdgordoncommunications.com.