If he is a problem – then we have a problem

By now, everyone in the Navy community should be up to speed on what is going on with the Commanding Officer of the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65).  I am not going to go into play-by-play details of the video, discuss the nature of TACAIR culture, or opine one way or the other.  If you want background and opinion, I would invite you to visit Galrahn, Lex, or my homeblog for that.

No, there are much larger issues at play here – and they have everything to do with time, place, and personnel.

Before CAPT Honors was CO of ENTERPRISE, he was CO of the USS MOUNT WHITNEY (LCC-20) after his stint as “Big XO” of the “Big E” when these videos were taken. That was over four years ago. His prior Command tour was with VF-211. You can review his full bio here if you want.

CAPT Honors is not new to Command. He is a known quantity in style, intelligence, and temperament. One board can miss something – but multiple boards usually do not. All this is in the open – especially on a Carrier that is thick with COs from squadrons, ships and CAG/DCAG – not to mention STRIKE GROUP Staffs loaded with post-Command CDR and CAPT.

Surface and Sub Commanding Officers can hide issues if sly – in aviation, nosomuch.

As “Big XO,” his videos and the nature of his videos were not a secret. Not to his Shipmates from E-1 to O-8. Anyone who has deployed on a CV/CVN knows this.

That is the issue.

Let’s not tell each other small untruths on this. Don’t insult each other’s intelligence and don’t insult the taxpayer.

While the videos were made, the Commander of the ENTERPRISE STRIKE GROUP was Rear Admiral Ray Spicer, USN (UPDATE: other sources have it as VADM Daniel Halloway, USN.  Perhaps an and/or – but not critical to the story). CAPT Honor’s Commanding officer was Rear Admiral Lawrence Rice, USN (Ret.). Again – just to be clear – nothing on these videos were unknown to the STRIKE GROUP Commander (embarked ENTERPRISE) or the Commanding Officer. I make a declaritive statement such as that because I have been deployed on Carriers and I can also declare that water is wet.  If I am wrong … then … well … wow.

Moving on; after a day of churning through the news cycle – MSNBC is reporting this;

The Navy officer who aired lewd videos for crew of an aircraft carrier will be temporarily relieved of his command as early as Tuesday, Navy sources told NBC News on Monday.

Capt. Owen Honors commands the USS Enterprise and produced the videos while second in command aboard the aircraft carrier.
He is to be relieved while the Navy investigates the incident.

There can only be three answers by the Navy concerning these videos. “We” refers to the Flag Officer Community that leads our Navy – just to be clear.

1. We had no idea.
2. We knew and didn’t care.
3. We disaproved, counseled our Shipmate, corrective action taken with remediation, and we moved forward.

At the start of the weekend, the official Navy reaction was sound, logical, and pointed towards what makes sense – #3.

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.”

That is why over the weekend I didn’t post on it at my homeblog at all until Sunday night. Something changed since Friday – something that violates a good truism – go with your first instincts.  Navy went PAO-wobbly and this went viral.

For reasons best known to senior leadership, we now find ourselves looking at #1 or #2. As we know that #1 is an impossibility – that leads to #2.

Really? No – not in the Navy of 2010. I don’t buy #2 either. Well, wait – a 5% chance. I’ll give you 5%.

That brings us back to #3 – which is greatest problem of all if we are now going to take CAPT Honor from Command. If it were #1 we could all just facepalm and call stupid. If it were #2 or #3 then we don’t have stupid – we have malice and betrayal by an officer’s Chain of Command.

It is the height of moral corruption to tell someone what they are doing is OK one day, and then the next – to protect yourself – act as if it were horrible. It is just as morally corrupt to reprimand a person, provide corrective action, accept remediation – and then at a later date punish him again for the same act only harder; submit that person to double jeopardy for your own self-preservation.

That last paragraph isn’t what is going on here, is it? If it isn’t – and it can’t be #1; then what is it?

By our actions, what are we teaching tomorrow’s leaders? Many of us saw what the bloodbath of self-preservation and bonfire of the innocents that took place after Tailhook did to trust between junior and senior officers. The culture of cynicism and mistrust that it begat continues to cloud our relationships.

Is that where we are going – really?

As the “Big E” gets ready to deploy and if she goes without CAPT Honors – good people can disagree if he is a problem or not. Either way though, we in the Navy have a larger one to deal with.

1, 2, or 3 – take your pick.

January 2011

Read More:

If he is a problem – then we have a problem | USNI Blog.


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