- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Navy on Thursday censured four senior officers of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and cautioned dozens of junior officers and enlisted sailors over lewd videos made several years ago on the ship to entertain the crew.

The four men, all with top-track careers in the service, were the vessel’s commanders and No. 2 officers when the videos were broadcast to the crew on the ship’s internal television system during two wartime deployments between October 2005 and December 2007.

One of the officers, Capt. Owen P. Honors, second-in-command at the time, already had been relieved of his command of the Enterprise two months ago, a few days after the Virginian Pilot newspaper posted several of the videos online.

A two-month investigation concluded that “the production and broadcast of these videos represent a significant departure from expected standards of personal behavior and professional leadership in the Navy,” said a statement from the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces, Adm. John C. Harvey.

Adm. Harvey said he was recommending that the secretary of the Navy issue letters of censure against the four officers: Capt. Honors and his successor as second-in-command, Capt. John Dixon, who actually made the videos; and Rear Adms. Lawrence Rice and Ron Horton, who had been in command of the ship at the time.

Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, told The Washington Times that secretarial letters of censure are “extremely rare, extremely serious and unique to the Navy.”

“It is the only nonpunitive letter that becomes a matter of record,” he said, adding that such a letter represents the most serious administrative measure the service could apply outside the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

Fleet Forces command said that nonpunitive letters of caution had been issued to two other flag officers who were the commanders of the strike group the Enterprise led during its two deployments, and that two other admirals who embarked on the ship had been counseled.

Thirty-two officers, senior enlisted and enlisted sailors were issued nonpunitive letters of caution for having “demonstrated deficiencies in personal behavior or professional judgment related to the production and broadcast of these videos,” Adm. Harvey said.

Most of them appeared to be personnel who volunteered to be featured in the videos, or helped shoot and edit them as part of the duties in the ship’s public affairs office.

Mr. Fidell said that such letters, unlike those issued to the more senior officers, “theoretically do not go in your record and don’t affect your prospects … they are not supposed to be considered” by the promotions board.

The videos, broadcast to the Enterprise’s nearly 6,000 crew members every week on the ship’s internal television system, feature foul language, scatological and slapstick humor, and the repeated use of an anti-gay slur.

Capt. Honors wrote in a statement to the investigation that they were “intended to boost morale while accomplishing important ‘Public service Announcement’ functions,” emphasizing command messages like the need to conserve water and keep hydrated in the Middle Eastern sun.

He wrote that the videos were never intended “to harm anyone [or] offend anyone’s sensitivities” or for “public consumption … [and were] meant to be viewed solely by the mature audience of Enterprise’s active duty war-fighters.”