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Old 01-06-2011   #1
M.L.
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Default Don't Get Caught!, or How US Navy Capt. Owen Honors Learned About Filmmaking

The big story of the week is the relief from command of Navy Captain Owen Honors for videos which he evidently wrote, produced, directed, and starred in from 2006-2007 while serving as the Executive Officer of the USS Enterprise. Apparently, Captain Honors did not heed the lessons to be learned from either George Lucas or Kevin Costner – when you try to do too much yourself in showbiz, it always comes back to haunt you.





This episode is bound to conjure up painful organizational memories for the US Navy of the Tailhook Scandal, and set off a similar debate about professionalism in the US military. Already there is an article in Christian Science Monitor in which the headline asks the question, “Do lewd videos point to deeper problem for military?” The article answers its own question, in a manner of speaking. The article quotes Kaye Whitley, director of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, as stating, “It’s a leadership issue.” Well, Kaye, in reality its a bit deeper than that.

It is a cultural issue, which is a reflection of leadership. According to CS Monitor, senior leaders in the Navy knew about these videos long before they became public, yet are only now taking action. It’s a leadership issue alright. But its not Captain Honors’ leadership issue (for him it is a professionalism/ethical issue). No, it is a leadership issue for all the leaders who knew about this, yet were perfectly happy to promote Honors up the chain because he got results. That is, until it became public. Now, those same leaders are perfectly happy to flame Honors for his actions, but only because now they are embarrassing the Navy.

You can’t tell me this is the first time Honors did this, either. Certainly there have been other incidents, which Honors’ leaders were happy to overlook, most likely because Honors was a result-getter. Regardless of all the talk in the military about integrity, professionalism, etc., results-getters and mission-accomplishers get away with a lot because senior leaders are willing to overlook “little” incidents like this – that is, until they become big incidents. The sin isn’t doing something unprofessional – the sin is only getting caught.

Its a leadership issue alright. Every single leader who looked the other way and allowed Honors to come up through the ranks unimpeded is to blame. Yet, mark my words – aside from the officer who was the Captain of the Enterprise at the time the videos were shown – NO OTHER SENIOR LEADER WILL BE PUNISHED. Sadly, that is the way these things work.
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Old 01-06-2011   #2
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On the other hand you don't want your armed service to crackdown on every non-conformality to rules.

We all know that work to rule is a form of strike, not a recipe for an effective organization.
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Old 01-06-2011   #3
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I get where the guy was coming form. A lot of the cookie cutter training material we receive or have to deliver, frankly, sucks. Keeping a bunch of soldiers engaged in stuff that's more likely to make them nod off is a challenge. I imagine it's the same in the U.S. armed forces. He was trying, in good faith I believe, to make the material interesting enough that the troops would listen.

With that said, he still screwed up- good as his intentions were, his judgement sucked.

Whether we like it or not we're forced to operate as armed forces that at least to a certain extent reflect the values of the societies we served. The way these videos come across easily conveys an abuse of his authority as XO, getting his sailors to perform this stuff. He also broke the cardinal rule of screwing around as a troop- never commit to video anything you wouldn't bring home to show the family. Amongst peers it wouldn't have been a big deal, but he's the XO; the right hand of God on a naval vessel, and he has to not just set the example of what he expects from his troops, but exemplify it. In this case it's gone farther to that, and he's brought his unit and his service into disrepute. His career's sunk; he's been yanked from command. Hopefully they'll still find a useful spot for him in the navy, but that said I don't think there's any shortage of good naval aviators waiting to fill the vacancy this will leave. It's an unfortunate but necessary instance of having to use someone's mistake to reaffirm certain basic lines in the sand and to deter others from potentially screwing up worse in future.

Like I tell my guys- everything you do in your professional capacity, subject it to the YouTube test. If you wouldn't want it on YouTube with your name on it, you need to at least give it a sober second thought. It might still be a good idea and necessary, but public perception counts these days. There'd better be a damned compelling reason to do something that will not go over well when it gets out.
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Old 01-06-2011   #4
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Thumbs up What they said...

Fuchs and Brihard that is...

How some can decry 'risk aversion' and 'group think' as well as complain of excessive demands for conformity and stultifying superiors in the Armed Forces and then castigate anyone who dares to be a bit different is mind boggling.

Many former crew members have defended the videos as have some teaching merit. As Brihard says, a LOT of training material sucks -- he's obviously a master of understatement -- and as many know, leadership is half showmanship.

My guess is the Navy has just relieved a potentially great combat commander for little reason. Were some people upset? Sure. Justifiably? Equally sure, based on their perspective. Others -- apparently many more others -- were not upset. No way to please everyone, never has been or will be.

This is all much ado about excessive political correctness and most of that ado misses the point that war, combat and the folks who engage in those things are about as politically incorrect as one can be. Yes, "result-getters" get some slack and there are many historical and good reasons for that.

Change that (more than we already have, which is a great deal...) and there will be a cost...
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Old 01-06-2011   #5
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Default The Most Stressful Job

One of the quotes about rationale for these types of films was to relieve the stress of the extended deployment, and I would gather from the sympathy it garners in the civilian press there are folks who say that the rest of the world just doesn't understand. However, I would ask the purveyors of the film if they have experienced the stress of the recruiter in the living room of middle America?
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Old 01-06-2011   #6
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During the early 1970s the U.S. Army toned down the content its preventive maintenance comic book-style periodical PS Magazine in response to criticism from the feminist community. Connie Rodd was given smaller breasts and much of the innuendo was deleted.
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Old 01-06-2011   #7
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Default Double Standard

I'd prefer my son not to serve on a ship where the XO produced these sorts of lewd videos. Then again as an army guy, I don't want him to serve on a ship period.

On the otherhand, given some of the jackwagons that reach senior levels of leadership, I'd much rather have a captain who produces bad taste videos and can fight and lead than some P.C. incompetent.

To relieve an otherwise competent officer for this is a travesty. Counsel behind closed doors maybe. Relieve NO.

What I find ironic is it seems the same crowd that wants CAPT Honors cashiered for this, is all for showing this same type of lewdness and vulgarity to children in the form of prime time television shows. At least being underway on the Enterprise guarantees it was received by an adult only audience.

Last edited by DVC; 01-06-2011 at 05:37 PM. Reason: Spelling
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Old 01-06-2011   #8
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Warning: Over the top conspiracy theory

Is the relief of Capt. Honors, a TAT-for-tat (Pentagon politics) for the relief and refusal to promote Capt. Holly Graff?
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Old 01-06-2011   #9
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Default I'd bet big bucks that

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Bennett View Post
...However, I would ask the purveyors of the film if they have experienced the stress of the recruiter in the living room of middle America?
middle America is several orders of magnitude less concerned by this than are some on the coasts.

As for Recruiting, bad taste videos aren't nearly as deleterious as are mediocre leaders...
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Old 01-07-2011   #10
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Default The whole thing is regretable really

I feel a little bad about the fact that an otherwise promising officer had his career cut short over this issue, however it speaks to nature of our 'information society' these days. In an era of multiple media platforms and multiple access points, putting anything down in video, audio or paper pretty much guarantees that it will be sent around the planet at least twice.

The downside to this is that every action becomes a potential media focus point, which adds extra importance to methods and standards of professional conduct as mentioned by those above.

Again, it's sad that an otherwise promising individual has now been denied the opportunity to fully realize his potential in armed service, and I have always felt personally that a little lewdness helps maintain some steel in the spines of military men and women.

Perhaps everyone, not just soldiers, sailors and airmen/women should internalize the 60 minute rule. Whenever you act unprofessionally, you can guarantee that within 60 minutes that a video of that will be up on youtube.
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Old 01-07-2011   #11
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Default Apples and Oranges

Discussion in this thread involves different different issues and moral values that shouldn't be conflated with each other. One has to do with personnel and what it takes to be an effective military leader; the other involves how the military services now believe they should handle a public relations crisis before it gets out of hand.

As regards the latter, instead of halfhearted measures at the outset it is now seen as being better for DoD to sacrafice the perpetrator before the situation gets worse. That's instead of letting inadequate responses to these high-profile situations allow these news stories to grow legs and go on for days on end before DoD finally gets around to bayonetting the guy. It may be cynical and hypocritical, but once you have seriously embarrassed your bosses you're history. Not much about the military service has really changed -- in the pre-PC days pissing off a colonel or general was all it took.

Last edited by Pete; 01-07-2011 at 02:07 AM.
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Old 01-07-2011   #12
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By and large the U.S. public has two different norms of behavior governing armed conflict -- one is for all-out war for national survival and the other is for peacetime and optional conflicts. Under the first one it's a case of "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" and under the second it's the Marquess of Queensberry rules. The uniformed military make no such distinctions and its leaders are frequently surprised when some incident reported in the news puts the two into conflict with each other.
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Old 01-07-2011   #13
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Default I don't think so...

Quote:
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By and large the U.S. public has two different norms of behavior governing armed conflict...
Not the public. They're broadly similar to Joe in their attitudes.

Just the media and the self anointed pseudo-sophisticates of the nominal intelligentsia.
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Old 01-07-2011   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
Not the public. They're broadly similar to Joe in their attitudes.

Just the media and the self anointed pseudo-sophisticates of the nominal intelligentsia.

Well put.
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Old 01-07-2011   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
... nominal intelligentsia.
I think we are now referring to them as the "Credentialed Class." As in, lots of fancy pieces of paper, but none of the abilities the paper ought to represent. And, apparently, with too much free time on their hands ...
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Old 01-07-2011   #16
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*sigh* If only the coasts could get out of Real America's way ...
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Old 01-08-2011   #17
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Default The true sigh inducement is that the real America encompasses the entire country.

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*sigh* If only the coasts could get out of Real America's way ...
A fact often forgotten by too many...

That sigh should be induced by the fact that the various communities and groupings all seem too frequently unwilling to accord each other a modicum of respect for their various strengths -- which all segments have -- and instead, like insecure Corporals, concentrate on denigrating each other.

You did, I hope, notice my use of the qualifiers "self anointed" and "pseudo."

The Coastal states have plenty of "real" Americans -- your word, not mine and I use it only in the sense you imply -- just as flyover country has plenty of folks with delusions of grandeur.
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Old 01-08-2011   #18
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Glad to see this post generated some discussion.

Two issues come to mind:

1. The core issue of this incident (in my opinion) is not whether or not Capt. Honors deserves to lose his job. Rather, the core issue is hypocrisy. In one sense, Capt. Honors is a victim of his own success, as well as the hypocrisy of his former leaders (many of whom are no doubt flag officers at present).

These leaders, who apparently think that these videos are an offense worthy of firing, did nothing to correct the situation four years ago when the videos were produced and shown. It is only now, when they are public, that Capt. Honors is being punished. Back then, Honors could have been given a reprimand that would not have ended his career. Today, he is relieved of command. His career is done.

The leaders who let Capt. Honors slide back in the day (probably because he was a high performer in mission-related work) weren't doing him any favors. It is their hypocrisy and failure to make a correction on a subordinate which bears as much of the blame for this as does Capt. Honors himself.

2. Second issue, and not quite as large. I've seen many comments that read something to the effect of "I'd rather have a good leader who is tactically sound and but offensive from time to time, than a poor leader who can't fight but who gets promoted because his is so politically correct."

This is a false dichotomy. There is no reason that a leader can't be tactically sound while at the same time acting in a professional manner.
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Old 01-08-2011   #19
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It's futile to expect that all of what DoD and the armed forces do at any point in time will have an absolute logical consistency about them because situations and different parts of the institutions are contantly changing. It is particularly the case involving anything having sexual connotations -- thus the hue and cry about the "wardrobe malfunction" at a Super Bowl halftime show in a society that is awash with sexual imagery. This reminds me of our thead where we try to reconcile everything that Clausewitz and other military writers have said with our current doctrine in FM 3-0.
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Old 01-09-2011   #20
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Bruce Fleming, "He was fired over his videos, but Capt. Owen Honors did the right thing"
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