Monday, January 3, 2011

The Rise and Fall of an Aircraft Carrier CO

Read a pretty good discussion of the issue and watch the video here, on Information Dissemination

Here's what I wrote in the comment section:

I had hoped not to spend too much time on this, but a phone call from my brother raised the question, and now that I've formed an opinion, I'll share it with whomever might be interested.

1. Galrhan does a fantastic job of providing context to the situation. Big E was in the yards a long, long time, and bringing a Dinosaur like that out and getting it up to operational speed is a Herculean task, one that would stress the abilities of any leadership team. Captain Honors was confronted with the task of motivating a crew that had long since ceased to see itself as a sea-going concern, and he clearly resorted to some of the more theatrical elements of leadership in the hope of creating that motivation. Leadership without some sense of theater is sterile and does not elevate the performance of subordinates.

2. Some of this stuff is genuinely funny, and as a red-blooded American guy (and former SWO), I say "bravo". There was creativity and bawdy humor laced throughout what I watched and sitting here at my computer desk, I was roundly entertained.

3. I got the jokes--and that's the problem. What we see here is inside Navy baseball at the major league level--and if you're not "read in", all you see is hostility to homosexuals (not homophobia, as I saw no fear), frat boy treatment of women, and sexual innuendo. Stuff that our increasingly "disconnected from all things military" American public finds discontinuous with their image of the military, and all of which they are quite comfortable with having had exterminated from THEIR workplaces. Taking this and showing it on Youtube et cetera is quite shocking to folks who simply don't do what the Navy does.

4. But none of this should be surprising. In the absence of complaints from the crew, Captain Honors should have had the sense not to make videos like this. He's been through all the training, he's seen the Navy dragged through the mud post-Tailhook. He knows that the past twenty years have been about professionalizing and diversifying the Navy workforce to the extent that yes--it looks much more like what the Youtube crowd watching at home looks like. Putting aside the offense that everyday Americans are taking at what is portrayed in these videos, the likelihood that crewmembers in ENTERPRISE would be made uncomfortable by the videos seems self-evident. That they registered their complaints with Captain Honors and he did nothing to censor his behavior raises questions about his judgment and fitness for duty at more senior levels, let alone that one he was at.

5. Most distressing to me, where was the Captain? I can assure you, if either of my XO's was routinely making video content for "enjoyment" by the crew, I would have had an interested eye cocked to the monitor simply out of curiosity. Had content like this been produced, I'd have had their asses.

So--should Captain Honors be fired? No. He should be reprimanded, and he should stay in command. ENTERPRISE CO's don't grow on trees and that ship has important business to attend to.

But they need to speed up whatever pipeline his relief is in, because when the deployment is over, Captain Honors should seek other employment.


BigFred said...

He's a year group 83 guy, which would have made him a senior LT during Tailhook, whether he was there or not. To riff from my friend Lex, Carrier CO, Deep Draft survivor, Nuclear Power School Graduate, Squadron XO/CO, TopGun graduate, (end riff) and the best he can come up with is Dick Jokes? Everybody on the ship has access to site TV. No one on the embarked staff, or more pointedly the CO chose to speak out and say, "Smart Huskies do not do that." Admiral, Chief Staff, CAG, CO? Buehler?

I want to say it was SECNAV O'Keefe who held a press conference and told Congress and the public that "We get it. Our behavior was inappropriate." Apparently the XO did NOT get it, and more shockingly maybe never did, and neither did anyone senior to him on the ship.

Fire him? No. Relieve him as soon as you can get someone through the pipeline? Yes. I am anxious to see what CFFC does with this one.

Dan said...

No wonder you guys always kick our asses on the "Go Navy, Beat Army" videos that get shown during the Army-Navy Game.

"The Hammer" said...

Speaking as an outsider, a disinterested observer, a veteran of the military in a different time and place...are you friggin' kidding me? This guy is a Captain, a bird Colonel, and he's making a comedy video?
I know times change but familiarity STILL breeds contempt. A commanding officer is a commanding officer, not a Vegas lounge act. Even Elmo Zumwalt would kick this guy's ass.
I know you guys think this is just good clean fun and maybe I just don't get it, but it breaks a lot of rules. I'm not sure it's conducive to proper military discipline.
God knows I'm the last person who should be lecturing anybody on decorum and propriety but damn, for a guy with that kind of rank, this is beyond the pale.

The Conservative Wahoo said...

No one is disagreeing with you, Hammer.

Anonymous said...

Two years from now there will be sailors marching in San Fran's gay pride parade placed somewhere between the Dykes on Bykes and transvestites dressed as nuns. The mainstream media will hail them as heroes.

Tempest in a teapot.

Bill said...

A circle jerk of the dunning kruger effect.

NavyAustin said...

Big Fred - Interesting you brought up the famous "We get it" line. That was a direct - delayed, but direct - response to Rep. Pat Schroeder's comment that "The Navy doesn't get it."

Which it didn't, at Tailhook. Or in the NIS (pre-NCIS) investigation of Tailhook, which put blinders on themselves to limit their investigation so much that they found nothing - leading DoDIG to come in and find everything.

In a way, this is the same problem. IF there was any investigation or action taken 4 years ago (and there will surely be a look back), doing nothing then is coming back to bite them now. For these videos, a castigation, reprimand, some sort of paper trail and apology 4 years ago would have showed that "The Navy" did something. He could have gone on and this would have been behind them.

Instead, he thumbed his nose at "the gutless" and chastised those who might take offense. When you openly mock people who might complain, it does have a chilling effect - except for those people who decide to call the DoD IG Hotline or the news.

Had there been one crow-eating video, where he had said, "You know, shipmates, it was pointed out to me from above and below that I was out of line. I didn't set the example I should have. I was trying to have some fun, but that shouldn't come at someone else's expense. I'll leave the humor to the professionals, and I offer my sincere apologies to those I've offended."

Now, the Navy has no real choice but to can him.

BigFred said...

NavyAustin, I should have amended the post to say that, thanks for making me look smarter than I am (even though you and Patsy Schroeder are from the same state...). What scares me is this guy, having gone through the "Hey, where did you get those ribbons mounted..." training, clearly did not get it, or somehow forgot. To quote Chevy Chase in "Fletch", maybe you boys need a little refresher course. So the IKE CO as an outlier?, no problem. What disturbs me is the groundswell of support that he has gotten on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. In the blogosphere, some guys who have about the same street creds as the recently departed are openly supporting him, and I have to say that like the Washington Post, "If you don;t get it? You don't get it."

So he does not get it, and a lot of guys who look like him apparently don't get it. I am NOT equating this to TAILHOOK by any means, as a guy who may or may not have made LT(jg)/O2 on time anyway if you bet the over under, but my promotion WAS delayed by Big Navy until I signed a statement saying I was not at TAILHOOK 1991. I refused out of principal, as we were in the Red Sea when it happened, to which XO Branum broke me and my spirit by making the alternative to not signing so painful as to make it no choice. I did make a video tape on that deployment, a la "COPS", which got me some black marks, but if you played that on CNN today? It would be boring.

Gays are a safe minority to abuse. They come in both genders, and the full spectrum of color, creed, religion, and ethnicity. So replace gayboy with "chink" or "mullion", or any other just up to the line but not over it derogatory term, and how would this play? Not well. OK, so I have quoted a Navy training film; a movie; and a radio ad, CW should give me a t-shirt.

As the esteemed Dr.Preble asked us for advice today on his article (he of the great St. Thomas USVI gin purchase which allowed Navy Austin to say "Mix me a drink that will make me cough! quote" many years ago), which may be on CNN later, on a ship you cannot turn the channel. The ship is the channel. On a carrier, the XO is the guy who gets it done. He may be MORE in touch with the day-to-day operations than the CO. To use that bully pulpit to spew this mung, as the #2, as the face of the ship, in a position of authority, in the penultimate position of authority in a city of 5 thousand people, is flat wrong.

"The Hammer" said...

I just heard on the radio they relieved the poor bastard. That's a damned shame. The guy was obviously a quality individual but got himself in trouble acting the fool (I can relate). I'm sure the Navy is like the Army, they take care of their own, but all bets are off if you embarrass the service. Bad business all around.

Anonymous said...

Meh...I guess that I am one of those who simply do not get it. Was the XO's performance worthy of an Oscar, no, but I certainly do not see the derailing of a 30 year military career.

I don't understand a lot about the Navy. Heck, I do not understand movie night, Sailors serving food to officers and a list of items to long to list here, but I appreciate the Navy for what it does. I do not understand the XO's movie clips, but it probably works when most Sailors only see the XO when he is bringing down the hammer or inspecting their spaces. I thought that the jokes were pretty obvious here.

I get all of the second guessing now about how "that was dumb", but guess what? So is having separate chow halls for different ranks, blueberry camouflage uniforms and unarmed quarterdeck watches, but everybody excepts those as 'the way we do business.'

The Navy is large and I suppose that there is another carrier CO ready to jump in this guys place, so while we are at it lets start looking back through all CO's histories and see if any of them participated in any crossing the line ceremonies. I suppose that stuff was dumb as well.

Has the day when a ships CO literally made national policy in foreign waters or on a foreign shore gone forever? Can the Navy (Blue Water) Navy even function as a warfighting machine anymore. Combat is tough. People curse, spit and yell. "Die m'f'er die" is not some sort of anti PC insult, but the ditty yelled while firing a .50 cal to ensure that one fires the appropriate burst of 'lethal' ordnance.

The Navy is running short of warfighters and I am not sure that seeking out you tube videos to fire ships commanders is the best way to select commanding officers. Or maybe we really think that this guy is the only guy who stared in an 'XO Video.'

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