NORFOLK, Va. – A Navy admiral on Thursday recommended that the captain who produced and starred in a series of raunchy videos shown to thousands of sailors aboard the USS Enterprise be censured along with three other high-ranking officers.
Capt. Owen P. Honors Jr. was the aircraft carrier's No. 2 officer when he helped produce and appeared in the series of videos that aired on the ship's closed-circuit TV station on deployments between October 2005 and December 2007.
The Navy's investigation found that Honors had produced at least 25 videos with inappropriate scenes, including anti-gay slurs, sailors of both genders in shower scenes and vulgar language. He was relieved of command this January shortly before a planned deployment after Navy leaders learned about the videos from media reports.
The head of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Adm. John Harvey Jr., recommended Thursday that Honors also undergo a hearing to show cause for why he should remain in the Navy.
The three other officers Harvey recommended for censure were Rear Adms. Ron Horton and Larry Rice, both former commanders of the Enterprise; and Honors' successor on the Enterprise, Capt. John Dixon. The letters have the potential to hinder the officers' careers.
A letter of censure does not end a military officer's career, but it makes it unlikely that the officer will be promoted. Generally in the U.S. military, those who don't have potential to move up in the ranks aren't encouraged to stay in.
The Secretary of the Navy will ultimately decide whether the men are censured.
The Navy took quick action against Horton on Thursday: After Harvey's announcement, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii announced that Horton was being relieved of his command of the 7th Fleet's logistics unit based in Singapore. The news release cited the Enterprise videos and said the reason was "for loss of confidence in his ability to command."
Many sailors aboard the ship when the videos aired have since said they were intended to be humorous, maintain morale on long deployments and incorporated shipboard lessons, such as water conservation.
Honors was the executive officer, and maintaining morale is typically part of the XO's job.
The Navy said about half the videos it found during its investigation didn't include inappropriate content. It posted all 55 videos along with its investigation on a public website.
Harvey acknowledged many of the videos were wildly popular with the crew and that Honors had tens of thousands of supporters on social networking sites, but he said that didn't make them appropriate.
Some of the videos included references to prostitution in foreign ports, eating excrement and drinking urine, and simulated rectal exams.
"People looked forward to these things," he said. "They were entertaining in all the wrong ways and they appealed to all the wrong instincts and it was the executive officer who led this parade downward."
Harvey recommended that lessons learned from the investigation be incorporated into leadership training.
The Navy said its investigation has focused on all aspects of the production of the videos, including the actions of other senior officers who knew about the videos and what actions they took in response.
Harvey issued "letters of caution" to Rear Adm. Raymond Spicer and Vice Adm. Daniel Holloway, the strike group commanders embarked in Enterprise during the ship's 2006 and 2007 deployments.
Another 32 sailors who had a role in the videos received letters from Harvey letting them know they had demonstrated poor behavior or judgment, although those letters are private.
Honors' civilian attorney, Charles W. Gittins, has said that if Honors had been told to stop producing and broadcasting the videos, he would have done so. Gittins did not immediately return a message Thursday night. A listing was not immediately available for the others recommended for censure.
USS Enterprise Video Investigation: http://usfleetforcesfoia.info/enterprise_investigation.htm