Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Conduct Worthy of Keeping a Navy Commission

I strongly believe this news reflects more on the naval aviation community as a whole rather than the specific naval aviator at the center of the discussion.

The three-admiral board unanimously agreed that Capt. Owen Honors committed misconduct, failed to demonstrate acceptable qualities of leadership required of an officer in his grade and failed to conform to prescribed standards of military deportment.

But it also voted 3-0 that Honors “be retained in the naval service.”
The three-admiral board consisted of three naval aviators - all fighter pilots with careers very similar to Captain Honors; Rear Adm. Brian C. Prindle, commander of the Naval Safety Center; Rear Adm. Dennis E. FitzPatrick, commander of Strike Force Training Atlantic; and Rear Adm. Walter E. Carter. As three Navy leaders who represent the naval aviation community, they unanimously agreed that XO Movie Night content represents content worthy of holding a commission as a US Navy officer in the naval aviation community.

It is the responsibility of folks in leadership positions to embrace the highest standards in conduct and professionalism. It is a leader's responsibility to train his/her team and root out those who do not meet the obligations and responsibilities desired within the team. Captain Honors behavior was allowed to continue unchecked, and when that happens it erodes unit cohesion and the ability of leaders to lead. After the XO movie night videos, CAPT Honors no longer held ability to hold others accountable for similarly unacceptable conduct.

But apparently we simply didn't get the memo, because as it turns out, Captain Honors represents the kind of character, professionalism, and conduct that is valued by at least three Flag officers in the naval aviation community today - because their ruling specifically says that despite cited misconduct, they want Captain Honors on their team. Captain Honors is one of them, indeed exactly like all of them from a career perspective.

It is hard not to see this result as more evidence and a very visible impact of the culture problem in naval aviation specifically cited by the investigation report. Sexual harassment, discrimination, improper conduct... these simply aren't priorities to a leader who trivializes these matters as part of his professional conduct. It is also impossible to suggest these are priorities for any Flag officer whose role is to hold accountable those leaders who trivialize those matters as part of their professional conduct. When one removes accountability from leadership, the result is the new acceptable standard.

Leadership and Accountability... what else needs to be said that hasn't been said already? It sure is a good thing this will be the big Navy story Americans are most likely to see this week... or not.

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