When the Village People released their classic, boi bar banger, In The Navy (video below), no one realized that it was far too subtle compared to reality. While many of our country’s young men and women stationed overseas are dedicated professionals whose service does nothing but make its citizens proud, there are a few who give us pause for thought. Or, in some cases, make me rethink not joining the armed services since they seem to be having more fun than I ever did.
Group showers? Check. Public self-gratification, simulated and otherwise? Check. Drag queens? You betcha. Lewd and lascivious behavior? In spades. Although I would have gone without the gay bashing, the rest seems to have been a party I would have enjoyed and remembered.
While the Navy issued no formal word Monday as to whether Capt. Owen Honors will retain his position as commander of the aircraft carrier Enterprise, military experts said his Navy career is almost certainly over.
The Virginian-Pilot reported Saturday that during his tenure as second-in-command aboard the Norfolk-based carrier, Honors produced and broadcast for the crew a series of short videos that included sexual jokes, subordinates parading in drag, anti-gay remarks, and sailors pretending to masturbate and shower together.
The newspaper published an edited version of one of the videos on its website over the weekend. Since then, the video has been broadcast by numerous national and international media outlets.
While some have criticized Honors since the videos became public, others – especially retired and active-duty sailors – have rallied in his support.
On ABCs “Good Morning America” show today, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, the former supreme commander of NATO, called the videos “incompatible with the climate of command we are trying to establish in the armed forces.”
U.S. Fleet Forces Command has launched an investigation into the videos. Other media outlets were reporting late Monday that Honors could be relieved of command as soon as today, but the Navy said no official call had been made.
Military experts said it’s unlikely Honors will stay, given that officers have been removed for far less in the past.
“This is very serious,” said Eugene Fidell, a law professor at Yale University and president of the National Institute of Military Justice. “After watching the videos, I don’t see how he could stay. He runs a warship, not a fraternity house.”
Ward Carroll, the editor of Military.com and a retired Navy aviator who flew with Honors, said, “Unfortunately, he pushed buttons that you just can’t push.”
The Navy isn’t saying how long its investigation might take, but authorities don’t have unlimited time to decide Honors’ future: The Enterprise and its 6,000 sailors and Marines are slated to deploy overseas this month.
“Especially given the deployment, I expect he’ll be removed sooner rather than later,” Fidell said.
The Navy hasn’t announced plans to delay the deployment, and Fidell doubts it will. “They’ll put someone else in his place and they’ll go,” he said.
Honors will probably face a mast, or a Navy disciplinary hearing before an admiral, before being forced to retire, Fidell said. Honors’ rank may be reduced, he added.
Honors made the videos with the help of subordinates in 2006 and 2007, while he was the ship’s executive officer, or XO. He returned as commander in May.
The videos were part of something Honors called “XO Movie Night.” In them, he indicates they’re meant to entertain the crew.
The Virginian-Pilot obtained three of the videos last week. Sailors who were aboard the Enterprise at the time said they were Honors’ ideas and that he made most of them while the ship was deployed. They were shown roughly once a week on closed-circuit shipwide television.
It’s unclear why the videos recently resurfaced, although one sailor who spoke to the newspaper said they remain on a shipboard computer.
Military.com’s Carroll said the biggest question is whether anyone other than Honors will be disciplined for the movies – namely, his superiors at the time.
A Fleet Forces spokesman, Cmdr. Chris Sims, said the Navy’s investigation isn’t limited to Honors. Among the questions the inquiry seeks to answer is whether Honors was reprimanded appropriately four years ago, Sims said.
The Navy has acknowledged that Honors’ bosses were aware of the videos; they told him in early 2007 to stop making them, the Navy said.
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.
Honors has not responded to requests for an interview. Neither has the Enterprise’s then-commanding officer, Larry Rice, now a rear admiral assigned to the Norfolk-based Joint Forces Command. Rear Adm. Raymond Spicer and Vice Adm. Daniel Holloway, who commanded the Enterprise carrier strike group during Honors’ time as XO, could not be reached.
A Facebook page set up for Honors’ supporters had more than 1,500 members as of Monday evening. In comments on the page, users argue that the videos are harmless and that Honors was right to use humor and levity to boost the crew’s morale during long, difficult deployments.
“You don’t know that kind of constant pressure until you’ve been there,” said J. Tyler Ballance, a retired Navy commander who captained an anti-mine ship in the 1990s. “This is the kind of guy who keep spirits up no matter what.”
Others noted that making humorous videos is a common practice during carrier deployments, and that XOs often record messages for the crew.
But Fidell, of the National Institute of Military Justice, said Honors’ videos – at the least the ones that contain anti-gay remarks and sailors mimicking masturbation – are something very different.
“To say that you need to create this kind of material in order for the ship to be happy – that’s just not a valid argument,” he said. “This is so far off any standard for acceptable behavior for someone in his position.”
A handful of sailors who were assigned to the Enterprise when the videos were being shown told The Pilot last week that some crew members raised concerns about them and were brushed off. In at least two of the videos, Honors admits they drew complaints.
A female sailor told the newspaper she and a number of other women on board were offended by their content.
In the Navy’s most recent statements about the videos, it called them “clearly inappropriate.”
“The Navy does not endorse or condone these kinds of actions,” the statement said. “Those in command… are charged to lead by example and are held accountable for setting the proper tone and upholding the standards of honor, courage and commitment that we expect sailors to exemplify.”
I’m not sure how the videos were a morale builder, but I do know that my delicate readers are salivating over the chance to watch them.
Okay, click here and you can get all three. I should note that, even though they’ve been edited for content, you might not want to watch them where your boss or clergy person might catch you. After all, you wouldn’t want them to think you’re the kind of pervert who enjoys this kind of randy entertainment.