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August 24, 2011

Navy Board Decides To Allow Fired Skipper Of USS Enterprise To Stay In Navy

Capt. Owen Honors was removed from command of the USS Enterprise earlier this year over a series of videos he made when he previously served as the ship's Executive Officer. After a hearing, a panel of 3 admirals has decided to allow Honors to continue in the Navy rather than discharging him after 28 years of service.

The former executive officer of the carrier Enterprise can remain on active duty despite a finding that his job performance aboard the carrier fell short of standards, a Navy board of inquiry decided Wednesday.

Capt. Owen Honors was brought to the board of inquiry for co-producing dozens of controversial and sometimes bawdy video vignettes shown aboard the ship in 2006 and 2007.

The three-admiral board unanimously agreed Honors committed misconduct, failed to demonstrate acceptable qualities of leadership required of an officer in his grade and failed to conform to prescribed standards of military deportment. But it also voted 3-0 that Honors “be retained in the naval service.”

Given this in his record, his effective service has ended anyway. He's never going to get another command and he still faces an unrelated retirement board but he won't be kicked out or punished further over the videos.

As I wrote after his relief and the firing of several of his senior officers, I can see the case against Honors. This was a profoundly dumb thing to do given the world we live in. If you're going to command a ship, you need to have the ability to see beyond the moment and how things might play out and look in different lights. Fair or not, that's just reality.

There were also some very questionable (to be charitable) elements to a few of the videos, like calling out an individual crew member as a coward.

On the other hand, Honors consistently received the highest fitness reports and by almost all reports, the crew reacted well to the videos. It seems Honors was being punished for something that was more or less accepted in the world in which it was designed but judged harshly in retrospect. What's funny to a tight-knit crew that's spending the better part of six months together will probably look odd and even offensive a few years later and few thousand miles away in DC/Norfolk. Which standard carries the day?

Galrahn at Information Dissemination has been strongly critical of Honors almost from the start and he has two posts today that are well worth reading on the subject.

I found this post especially interesting because I think at the time he and I had a discussion about this on Twitter. In short, if Honors' conduct was acceptable to his superiors inside the somewhat insular world of Naval Aviation (and given his fitness reports it seems to have been) but not to other leaders in the Navy, then the Navy has a much bigger problem than some off color videos.

But apparently we simply didn't get the memo, because as it turns out, Captain Honors represents the kind of character, professionalism, and conduct that is valued by at least three Flag officers in the naval aviation community today - because their ruling specifically says that despite cited misconduct, they want Captain Honors on their team. Captain Honors is one of them, indeed exactly like all of them from a career perspective.

It is hard not to see this result as more evidence and a very visible impact of the culture problem in naval aviation specifically cited by the investigation report. Sexual harassment, discrimination, improper conduct... these simply aren't priorities to a leader who trivializes these matters as part of his professional conduct. It is also impossible to suggest these are priorities for any Flag officer whose role is to hold accountable those leaders who trivialize those matters as part of their professional conduct. When one removes accountability from leadership, the result is the new acceptable standard.

Admiral Harvey, Commander US Fleet Forces, who had command jurisdiction over Honors certainly felt Honors fell short of the standards set by the Navy for leaders.


(Sorry for the format, it's how they released the statement)

VULGAR LANGUAGE, INSENSITIVE AND SEXUALLY-TINGED ATTEMPTS AT HUMOR SUCH AS THAT DISPLAYED IN THE ENTERPRISE VIDEOS IS NOW AN EVERYDAY PART OF OUR POPULAR CULTURE AND ENDLESS EXAMPLES CAN BE FOUND ON CABLE TELEVISION AND IN THE MOVIES.

RECOGNIZING THIS FACT OF LIFE, SOME HAVE QUESTIONED THE ACTIONS I HAVE TAKEN THUS FAR AND HAVE ALSO CHARACTERIZED THE VIDEOS AS HARMLESS ATTEMPTS TO RAISE CREW MORALE DURING A PERIOD OF DEMANDING OPERATIONS.

I CANNOT DISAGREE MORE STRONGLY!

NAVY LEADERS ARE NOT POPULAR ENTERTAINERS, BUT PROFESSIONALS VESTED WITH EXTRAORDINARY MILITARY AUTHORITY WHO MUST BE HELD TO A HIGHER STANDARD AND MAINTAIN THEIR CREDIBILITY IN THE EYES OF THEIR SUBORDINATES UNDER THE MOST DIFFICULT, EVEN POSSIBLY LIFE-THREATENING, CIRCUMSTANCES.

POOR JUDGMENT AND BEHAVIOR THAT UNDERMINES THAT CREDIBILITY THREATENS GOOD ORDER AND DISCIPLINE AND, OVER TIME, JEOPARDIZES THE CREW’S FAITH IN ITS LEADERSHIP. THAT MEANS WE CANNOT SIMPLY IGNORE ACTIONS SUCH AS THE PRODUCTION OF THESE VIDEOS THAT CLEARLY CALL INTO QUESTION A NAVY LEADER’S JUDGMENT, CHARACTER, AND FITNESS TO COMMAND.

TO BE TRUE TO OUR NAVY’S CORE VALUES OF HONOR, COURAGE AND COMMITMENT, OUR LEADERS ARE REQUIRED TO ENSURE THE WELL-BEING OF OUR PEOPLE, SHOW RESPECT TOWARD ALL, AND TREAT EACH INDIVIDUAL WITH DIGNITY.

THOSE INVOLVED IN THE PRODUCTION OF THESE VIDEOS AND THOSE THAT DID NOT TAKE SUFFICIENT ACTION TO STOP THEM FROM BEING PRODUCED DID NOT MEET THAT HIGH STANDARD.

Somewhere there's a disconnect between what Big Navy says it wants and what some parts of the Navy are rewarding via fitness reviews, promotions and command assignments.

Or, maybe it's just a case of "It's cool...just don't get caught. If you do, we never met".

digg this
posted by DrewM. at 08:49 PM

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