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Captain – Not

More silliness. Although I will grant the U.S. Navy absolute discretion in who they appoint as captains of their warships I wonder if the recent relief of Captain Owen Honors as captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise is either wise as a principle of military leadership or a proper use of taxpayer dollars.

Four years ago Honors was the Executive Officer (XO) of the Enterprise and while on deployment made a series of videos to bolster crew morale. Deployments on carriers last six months or more and become very tedious. Crew members describe the experience of a long cruise as like the movie Groundhog Day, the same thing day after day. In an environment where all members of the team have to be on their toes at all times morale is very important. So the XO, himself a Top Gun fighter pilot, undertook to poke fun at himself and the Navy. The videos were broadcast throughout the ship and, from a crew of 5,000 men and women, some were offended. That he had time to do the videos is an indication of just how much time people have on their hands aboard ship. I’ve seen the clips and found them within the boundaries of college and GI humor.

This all happened between three and four years ago. Honors progressed through the pretty-stiff process of qualifying as captain of one of the Navy’s most important assets and was about to ship out to support the war in Afghanistan. Then clips from the videos were released and the admirals and cable channels went totally nuts. He was relieved of command, effectively the end of his Navy career. Not only that, the Enterprise has to get a new captain just as they are shipping out.

But the Navy has spent millions, maybe tens of millions, to bring this man to this point only to fire him for off-color satire he did four years ago! Since he made it to captain I assume that he is otherwise qualified for the job and not just a clown. To increase the silliness the Navy is on the hunt for any of his superiors who were aware of the videos (shades of Tailhook). To what end, prosecution of bad comedy? Wasting Navy time? Undoubtedly prejudicial to good order and discipline, a crime in the military. What if they find out this sort of thing happens on all the ships?

During the Civil War people complained to President Lincoln that General Ulysses Grant drank too much (not really true and never on the job). Lincoln replied, “I can’t spare this man. He fights!” For the men and women who fight unseen and far away this American will grant them their bad jokes. Alas, the waste of good people is no joke.

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