Captain Owen P. Honors Jr., who commanded the USS Enterprise (the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier) during missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, thought it’d be useful to train his Navy sailors using videos showing women showering together. And men dressed up in drag. And featuring him throwing “fag” all over theh place. “Over the years I’ve gotten several complaints about inappropriate material during these videos,” says Honors in the introduction. So “fags” should “hug themselves for the next twenty minutes.” The videos, made in 2006 and 2007, were broadcast to the ship’s 6,000 sailors. The Virginian-Pilot notes the videos were shot and edited on the Enterprise, using government equipment. And now the Navy says it’s very interested in knowing how all this happened, launching an investigation into Honors’ little movie screenings.
When the videos were made, Honors was the ship’s executive officer (or XO) and second-in-command. Now he — with his frequently appearing blurred-out penis “little XO — is now running the ship.
In the videos, Honors indicates that he’s trying to entertain the crew. They were shown roughly once a week on closed-circuit shipwide television, according to a handful of sailors who were assigned to the Enterprise at the time. The sailors requested anonymity for fear of retribution. One of them said he mailed a complaint about the videos to the Navy Inspector General this week. Others said crew members who raised concerns aboard the ship in 2006 and 2007 were brushed off. The videos were part of what Honors, 49, called “XO Movie Night.” “They were the XO’s project,” said one former Enterprise sailor, a ship video-grapher who on one occasion was asked to help in the filming. “He was the one coming up with scripts and the jokes. He was the one planning it.”
The Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, is set to deploy overseas this month. The videos raise serious questions about Honors’ judgment, especially while the carrier is under way, said another sailor, an officer aboard the Enterprise who was also there when the videos were being shown. “When the ship pulls away from that pier, he’s it,” the officer said. “To me, that’s scary.” It’s unclear why the videos recently resurfaced, although one sailor who spoke to the newspaper said they remain on at least one shipboard computer.
Honors is a native of Syracuse, N.Y., and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1983. He went on to fly the F-14 Tomcat and work as a test pilot before serving as XO on the Enterprise from July 2005 to September 2007. Honors did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did the Enterprise’s then-commanding officer, Larry Rice, who was later promoted to the rank of the rear admiral and now works at the Norfolk-based U.S. Joint Forces Command.
Why are the videos, which also include scenes of a sailor being anally probed, such a big deal? Because when the ship sets off with thousands of sailors aboard, this homophobe is the one setting the tone of deployment, and he has the final say of all men and women aboard the carrier. And with the inevitable full repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, gay and lesbian soldiers will finally be able to legally identify as such on the job, and these videos send the message they are better off remaining the closet. Which might make sense anyhow: While soldiers will no longer be able to be discharged for being gay, there is still no anti-discrimination policy in the military. Capt. Honors just made clear he has no respect for gay and lesbian servicemembers, and cannot effectively lead them in wartime on par with heterosexual sailors.
The Navy says in a statement “production of videos, like the ones produced four to five years ago on USS Enterprise and now being written about in the Virginian-Pilot, were not acceptable then and are still not acceptable in today’s Navy. The Navy does not endorse or condone these kinds of actions.” That comes after the Navy released a statement saying the videos were “not created with the intent to offend anyone. The videos were intended to be humorous skits focusing the crew’s attention on specific issues such as port visits, traffic safety, water conservation, ship cleanliness, etc.”
Now Honors will face an investigation ordered by Adm. John Harvey, the four-star head of the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command. And with Honors repeatedly insisting through that videos that even his commanding officers were unaware of the content, does that mean his bosses are off the hook? Not necessarily. Being ignorant of your underlings’ actions doesn’t mean you’re innocent. And if the videos really were broadcast to the Enterprise’s 6,000 sailors, it seems nearly impossible Honors’ higher ups were in the dark.