07 Jan 2011

The Enterprise Video Affair

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Spook86 puts Captain Honors’ grabasstical videos in perspective, speculates on who leaked them to the Virginia Pilot and why, and points out that the lame-stream media generally failed to report a much more impressive scandal featuring an abusive female officer.

[W]hy didn’t anyone raise red flags three or four years ago when Captain Honors was producing those tasteless (but amusing) skits?

We’re guessing that the brass viewed Honors as an effective leader. Unit morale is one of the responsibilities of a ship XO (executive officer), and it looks like Captain Honors inherited a very unhappy crew on Enterprise. Apparently, most of the sailors appreciated his efforts and we’re guessing that the “Big E’s” efficiency improved under his watch. So, the brass was willing to look the other way.

Incidentally, we are not trying to condone Captain Honors morale efforts. While the videos that have found their way into the public realm, we’re also remind us that the Navy has its own, unique culture. Bawdy skits, offensive humor and other customs have long been used to relieve the monotony that sets in after months at sea. It was in this tradition that Honors produced his videos, and judging by the comments on various Facebook pages and other on-line forums, his efforts were appreciated.

But even if his motives were focused on crew morale and mission accomplishment, you still have to ask the essential question: what was Captain Honors thinking? We assume that the former carrier commander was aware that his videos were making their way around the fleet. And surely he knew it was just a matter of time before they showed up on YouTube. The fact they weren’t on-line (until the Virginian-Pilot got hold on them) is another testament to the popularity and respect that Honors earned from his sailors.

They understood that on-board “morale videos” were intended for the crew–and no one else. It was one more shared experience that bonded them together during months of training and long periods at sea. It’s a concept that is almost alien to anyone who hasn’t been a sailor, or part of the wider military community.

You see, there’s something about shared hardships and camaraderie that bring people together–or drive them apart. In that environment, you quickly discover which senior officers genuinely care about their troops, and the ones that are more interested in that next promotion. Captain Honors clearly fell in that latter category, even if his efforts at morale-boosting have been deemed inappropriate. …

As for the “source” of the tapes, it was clearly an inside job. We can’t point to a specific individual, but there are two prime categories of suspects. The first (and most obvious) are individuals who received a poor performance report from Captain Honors (former department heads on the Enterprise would be in that group, along with E-8s and E-9s who were evaluated by Honors since taking command, or during his previous tour as XO).

There’s also the possibility that Honors was torpedoed by one of his peers. As a Naval Academy grad, Top Gun graduate, decorated aviator and tours as a carrier XO and commander, Owen Honors was on track to become an admiral. Now, with his career in tatters, there is no chance he will ever reach flag rank. We’re guessing that Owens was up for his first star in the next year or so–and a presumptive choice for promotion, had the scandal not erupted. Instead, Owens is toast, and there will be one more opening when that board meets. It wouldn’t be the first time that a cut-throat Captain or Colonel has deliberately sabotaged a colleague, to enhance their own chances at promotion.

One final thought: if you’re so inclined, do a Google search for Captain Owens, then do the same thing for Captain Holly Graf. Readers will recall that Captain Graf was fired as skipper of the USS Cowpens last summer, for “cruelty and maltreatment of her crew.” That was the Navy’s description of her actions–not ours. Mark Thompson of Time correctly described her as a “female Captain Bligh” who verbally abused her crew and even throttled a Royal Navy exchange officer who served on her pr evious command, the USS Winston Churchill.

In case you’re wondering, that web search for Graf produces fewer results than a similar query for Captain Honors. But more importantly, much of the coverage of the Graf controversy was limited to Navy Times and military blogs (Time was a notable exception among the MSM). Outside of military circles, few have heard of “Horrible Holly” Graf. Meanwhile, the Honors scandal has been front-page news around the world. We’re not surprised.

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