Captain Owen Honors made some videos, being described by the news blogs as 'raunchy,' while supporting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007. News of these videos was broken over the weekend by a newspaper called The Virginian-Pilot complete with excerpts and in-depth descriptions.
A quick summation of the contents of the videos is as follows:
One video, produced for distributon over the ship's closed circuit video system, shows two male Navy sailors standing in a shower stall pretending to wash each other, and two female sailors pretending to shower together to conserve water; sailors parading in drag; some language that has been described as homophobic slurs; and there are scenes of simulated masturbation and a simulated rectal exam.
Apparently, the videos were shown once a week on closed-circuit television in the nuclear vessel to the crew of nearly 6,000 sailors and Marines. Now, of course, there are those that have come out in defense of Capt. Honors and those that have condemned him.
Initially, the Navy came out for Honors, saying:
The Navy released a written statement late Friday in response to The Pilot's inquiries.
"The videos created onboard USS Enterprise in 2006-2007 were not created with the intent to offend anyone," the statement said. "The videos were intended to be humorous skits focusing the crew's attention on specific issues such as port visits, traffic safety, water conservation, ship cleanliness, etc."
The statement said that when leaders with the carrier strike group became aware of the inappropriate content in early 2007, production of the videos ended.
At least one video that includes anti-gay remarks and officers pretending to masturbate was made after July of that year, according to Honors' comments in it.
And, the statements that have come out from those that actually served under the Captain echo similar, harmless sentiment:
"The clips being shown on the news are out of context and edited to look vulgar," Melissa Nielson posted, calling the reporting a "witch hunt. Where are the inspirational messages to the crew that were aired?" she asked.
Wes Stooksbury, one of those who [showed his support on Facebook], wrote, "To whichever 'loyal' crewmember has betrayed your captain: It's stunts like that that make me wish the days of corporal punishment were still around. You need to be keel-hauled. Shame on you for potentially destroying at least one great man's career, possibly two now that they have opened an investigation into Admiral [Larry] Rice's involvement. But, alas, you hid behind anonymity like the coward you are."
"I'm ashamed that Capt. Honors is being investigated for this BS. He did his time and served his country as I, and many others have. I am one of those who enjoyed not only his PRESENCE, but also his leadership," Justin Thomson wrote.
On ABC News' "Good Morning America" today Lt. Carey Lohrenz, a former female Navy pilot, also defended Capt. Honors, saying the video had been taken out of context, "I think it's important to remember this is being taken, to a certain extent, out of context," Lohrenz said. "We need to proceed very cautiously when we just automatically have a really strong reaction and say, 'Hey, this guy needs to be out of there."
Contrarily, there are those that believe that, despite the Captain's intentions, the office of military leadership should come with a level of decorum and professionalism:
"A laugh shouldnt come from such offensive material especially from such a high ranking officer," wrote Benjamin Daniel Jenkins, whose comment received many angry replies from Honors' supporters.
Other retired military officials disagreed with Captain Honors' videos, regardless of the context.
"I'll laugh along with South Park along with everyone else but that's not his job. He's the senior leadership on that ship, he sets the tone of what is appropriate and what is not. You can bring comedians on the ship and that is good for morale, but that's not his role on this ship," retired Marine Corps Col. Steve Ganyard, a former F-18 pilot who commanded an Air Group, told ABC News.This last bit is a good point. Sure, it can get tight and cramped and all kinds of serious and No-Fun on a nuclear vessel in the middle of a war zone, but - to borrow a Red Foreman phrase - if it were supposed to be fun they would call it 'Super Happy Fun Time' not work. Or, in this case, War.
We like to believe that a leader holds him or herself to some sort of higher standard than the rest of us. They are supposed to be the example. Honors was a good leader, or so the soldiers under him would have you believe - complete with threats of violence against those that disagree. And, our political and social sensibilities aside, there is a different, more troglodytic level of humor in the military - especially the Navy...or so colloquial knowledge goes. A frat-house mentality, as it were. These men and women did this as a joke, and I suppose it would be a completely different story if it had just been the soldiers making the videos and not the supervising officer.
What do you all think? Two of the videos are below. Watch them and weigh in on the comments section. This is a great conversation on the meaning, purpose, and role of leadership, military dynamic, propriety in the workplace, and whether videos like this should affect your career.
On that last point: Recently, a coach of a professional sports team recently had a foot fetish video of him and his wife leaked online. This caused him ridicule, but - as far as I know - it's not cost him his job. Is this the same thing? Or is it different because of the nature of his job? Is it different because of who recorded, starred in, circulated, and the setting of the videos? (Psst... I think so.)
Love and Lyte,