Friday, January 07, 2011


#1 Son has just arrived home from deployment, having spent some months as a resident Marine on a Navy Amphibious Readiness mini-aircraft carrier thingy. We had a brief conversation which touched on baby brother's former commander, the notorious OPH (Owen P. Honors -- see below).

Level of sympathy on the part of our Marine for the predicament of Captain Honors?

Absolute zero.

XO's are supposed to be iron-gut enforcers, not the class clowns with an inexplicable amount of time on their hands. That is all.

Well, I defer to the expert.

All I would add (my two-cents) is that, since Honors has long since ceased his childish shenanigans, had never been reprimanded for them by anyone until now, and has already been a successful commander of another aircraft carrier, the USS Mount Whitney, for more than two
years without complaint or incident or repetition of questionable conduct that we know of, I think the statute of limitations on former jackass-dom should be considered passed.

A reprimand on record, some sort of probation, a fine, or just the public embarrassment would seem to be sufficient punishment. And if what he did was so terrible, his then-commander should receive equal, if not greater, punishment for his negligent approach to discipline.

Marines. Hard-ass. It works.


Cincinnatus said...

More food for thought: on the NRO forum linked below where I put down my thoughts on the matter, a couple of Navy veterans had some other good points about Capt. Honors' conduct being unacceptable. Among them:

-footage of naked women/men, even if the nudity is implied, could fall under the UCMJ's articles on sexual misconduct, especially if those sailors were enlisted
-the commanders of large naval vessels regularly 'fly the flag' as ambassadors to the various nations whose ports they visit during deployments; regardless of when the films were made, their current proliferation undermines Capt. Honors' ability to act as a professional representative of the United States
-his comments on complaints about his videos as 'gutless' and repeated statements of 'if you don't like it, don't watch because I'm going to do it anyway' suggest a willingness to abuse his rank and seniority because no one else on the ship, the captain aside, can make him stop
-a senior leader's job is to lead, enforce regulations, set the example, and prepare his subordinates for war; not to entertain, joke around, or be one of the guys

While it's entirely possible that the story surfaced with the intention of throwing him under the bus for wrong or malicious reasons, it's brought sufficient material to light that, in my mind, there are plenty of good reasons for removing this man from a high-visibility position in the Navy. Home videos of someone eating candy bars from a toilet are what I'd expect from a junior lance corporal fresh out of high school, not a senior officer about to lead 6000 Americans into combat. And since most of the junior lance corporals of my acquaintance haven't posted similar videos on YouTube, I see no reason why Capt. Honors should get a pass. Maybe I'm heartless and maybe I'm a Marine sticking his nose in where it shouldn't belong, but I've been in 7 years now, this ain't my first rodeo, and having seen enough poor leadership in that time, my tolerance for shenanigans from on-high is close to zero. Like I said, if Capt Honors can't find the time to keep his face off the camera and set the example, there are plenty of other officers who can.

Cincinnatus said...

I don't think this worked the first time (doing it on a Mac, which is like a monkey using a typewriter), but my original point was that, along with my own thoughts, several other good arguments came up in the NRO string I weighed in on about Capt. Honors' unsuitability for command following the video release (

-the depiction, be it actual or implied, of naked women (and men, for that matter) in the videos could be grounds for charges of sexual misconduct under the UCMJ, especially if those women were enlisted
-his characterization of complaints about his videos as "gutless" and guidance to "just not watch them" if one doesn't want to be offended implies that at least a few sailors at the time HAD, in fact, objected to the videos, and Capt. Honors' response was to belittle their objections and carry on regardless as no one, short of the captain of the ship, could force him to stop. This attitude has two effects: one, it tells sailors that their senior leadership is unresponsive to the concerns of their subordinates, which could discourage them from coming forward with potentially more serious concerns in the future; and two, that their XO thinks he can do whatever he wants because he's got the rank to get away with it. Both of these perceptions are incredibly corrosive to a command environment.
-as the top commander of an American carrier strike group, Capt. Honors would not only be a powerful military leader but an official ambassador of his country to whatever ports his strike group visits. This is called "flying the flag"; it's a big deal for American warships to drop anchor in a foreign harbor, as it's not only a demonstration of power but of our commitment to our allies. The senior commander of a naval group regularly meets with local government officials of the harboring country (same rules applied to the commodore of the 31st MEU's amphibious readiness group). Video of Capt. Honors eating chocolate 'poop' out of a toilet significantly degrades his ability to act as an ambassador; that's hardly the public face we want other countries to think about when our warships visit.

It's entirely possible that the reporter who broke the story was looking to throw Capt. Honors under the bus for her own partisan reasons; but with his home movies now available for the world to see, his chain of command had to decide whether he could still be an effective leader, and I think there are many good arguments as to why he could not. Is the material in the videos generally intended to be juvenile and humorous? Yes; but the sailors of a carrier strike group don't need a stand-up comic at the helm, they need a mature, thoughtful, professional leader. The movies raise serious questions as to whether Capt. Honors is any of those things. The USO can provide comedians; it can't provide decision-making and judgment. And if Capt. Honors has some weaknesses in those areas, there are other captains in the Navy who don't and who'd be glad to command this country's most powerful vessel.

Winefred said...

Ooooh -- USO comment packs a whallop!

Winefred said...

So does the rest, BTW.