Navy captain failed key test of leadership

He who is not ruled by the rudder will be ruled by the rock, according to an old nautical expression.

Rudderless Navy Capt. Owen Honors ran into a career rock Tuesday when he was relieved of duty as commander of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.

The Virginian-Pilot newspaper reported last weekend that Honors produced a series of raunchy videos for the ship's crew while deployed in 2006 and 2007 as part of the U.S. war in Iraq.

The Enterprise is the oldest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the Navy fleet and carries about 5,000 personnel. The videos were shown on "movie nights" through the ship's closed-circuit TV system and were intended to boost morale and break tension.

Honors starred in the videos featuring gross toilet scenes, masturbation, animal sex and even a mock rectal exam.

Most disturbing, however, was the disdain shown toward gays in the videos and the open way Honors mocked and dismissed the complaints of female sailors who objected to his obscene videos.

The revelations are particularly embarrassing for the Navy in light of Congress' decision last week to repeal the "don't ask don't tell" military policy that had been in effect since the Clinton administration.

But this is clearly not a case of a man trapped by changing public attitudes toward homosexuality.

This behavior from a commanding officer would long have been objectionable in any organization that valued leadership and discipline.

It would be naive to think this sort of humor doesn't occur in many large organizations, particularly the military.

There is always a temptation for the boss to be "one of the guys," and there are always constructive ways for doing that.

But the commander of a nation, the captain of a ship or the CEO of a large company sets the tone for the entire organization.

Having the boss show sexist and homophobic attitudes gives a green light to those below him or her do the same.

There is a certain amount of decorum and distance any leader must maintain to set an example for those under his command.

Honors may be an excellent officer in all other respects. But he failed this key test of leadership and must suffer the consequences.

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Judith Abbott's picture

Navy Captain failed key test of leadership

Captain Honors was in a position to lead by example but instead he chose to act like a 19 year old frat brother. He should be held accountable for his poor judgement and unprofessional behavior.

 's picture

I agree that this guy didn't

I agree that this guy didn't exercise the best judgement as XO. My only question is.....this was three maybe four years ago.....if it was THAT offensive......why did it take so long to surface? And....I am certain the captain of the ship then must have known about it. Why wasn't it stopped? Back then? I think we have witnessed yet another child of the PC police. Maybe someone wanted his job and did some digging. Or was passed over in favor of him and is vindictive.

AL PELLETIER's picture

one more thing

In the spring of 1967 my cruiser, USS Providence, pulled along side an aircraft carrier in the Tonkin Gulf off Vietnam so we could catch a USO show featuring Bob Hope, Ann Margarite and many other stars of the day. Now that was a morale builder and, oh ya, the carrier was the Enterprise!

AL PELLETIER's picture

not my kind of Navy

I served 30 months in combat waters in Vietnam aboard 2 light cruisers. We needed morale boosters too. Our Captain and officer staff organized regular "smokers" on the ships fan tail.
A smoker, for those who don't speak navy, is a great barbi, steak and seafood followed by musicians, boxing and wrestling matches, and performances by any sailor that would amuse and entertain. We crossed the Equator 4 times and had polywog to shellback activities that were pretty gross but fun non the less. We had baseball, touch football and vollyball teams where officers and enlisted could blow pent up steam. But never, in my wildest dream, could I believe my old C.O. would conduct himself like Captain Honors for the sake of "morale" when there are so many other morale building activities and especially aboard a carrier! Perhaps he wants to be a youtube star. He's certainly getting great publicity.
Al Pelletier

 's picture

Those who saw the videos

say they've seen worse on Saturday Night Live and some of those cartoons that pass these days for adult entertainment. And for that, he loses his job. Yes, he's been "reassigned." Want the naval translation of reassigned? Retired. A good man now a days is hard to find. It just got harder.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

AARRGHH!!! Are you suggesting

AARRGHH!!! Are you suggesting he should WALK THE PLANK?

Steve Bulger's picture

Your only point of reference

is a relative by marriage? You never served on active duty? As a young sailor over 40 years ago, I had the honor to serve under a commanding officer who came to my helicopter squadron from a combat squadron in Vietnam. He had an incredible appreciation and respect for those he commanded (no doubt born from the close-knit interdependancy between pilots, crewmen and maintainers in-country), and we, in turn, had an unwavering respect for him. He conducted recreational and morale-boosting events for us that would surely be frowned upon by the politically-correct wuzzies who seem to dominate the chain of command these days. He treated us like people not expendable resources, and we responded by performing our missions with a skill that resulted in performance awards for him, us and the whole squadron. Life in the military has no equivalent in the civilian world, and those who have never served cannot grasp the living and working conditions, the camraderie, the pressures, the hazards and the relief methods utilized by people who are so interdependent on one another for their very lives. Any action, reaction, trait, tendency or inclination that threatens the cohesion of a military unit must be dealt with to ensure success of the assigned mission. The commanding officer is responsible for this and all aspects of life for the people serving under his command; their business IS his business. And as for your comment, "Sorry, but we don't need his kind running our military", what do you know about our military other than what you derive from 90-second news stories on mainstream media?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The Captain is obviously a

The Captain is obviously a big fan of McHales' Navy.

Steve Bulger's picture

Stow it, editors.

Another piece of journalistic junk undoubtedly written by someone who never served in the armed forces and was likely protesting the military while his peers were defending his right to protest...and subsequently compose an editorial opinion in a free press protected by people such as CAPT Honors. You obviously have no conception of the pressures and daily strife endured by our servicemen and servicewomen, nor do you understand the attempts, orthodox and extraordinary, by commanders to provide relief from those pressures to those serving in their commands. Unit morale and cohesion are as essential to success at the tip of the spear as are training and proficiency. Anything that threatens those qualities should and must be expunged, whether that threat be malfunctioning equipment, improper procedures, or unit members whose personal preferences and behaviors do not coincide with the unit as a whole. Before you take a pious, pompous approach to this situation, you should closely examine the reactions from CAPT Honors' crew, past and present, as to his ability to command, execute the mission and maintain high morale and esprit-de-corps.


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