A panel of three flag officers agreed that Navy Captain Owen P. Honors, late CO of USS Enterprise, should be allowed to continue his service in his present grade rather than face mandatory retirement, potentially at a reduced rank. One intuits that NPR’s online blog finds the panel’s result inexplicable, but notes that testimony from a retired Chief Warrant Officer about Honors’ effectiveness as executive officer of the ship may have played a role:
Chief Warrant Officer John Gilbert, who served as maintenance officer on the Enterprise, said he often asked Honors to convey messages to the crew, and that whenever he did, it solved the problem at hand.
For example, after a string of bad plumbing backups, he asked Honors to make a video explaining what shouldn’t be flushed down shipboard toilets.
“We’d do a video on it and bam, it’s taken care of,” Gilbert said, adding that sailors “ran to the TVs” to watch the Saturday night videos.
“I’ve never seen morale so high,” he said.
There was apparently insufficient server space at NPR for the news outlet to reveal a bit of interesting background on CWO Gilbert’s testimony:
He suffers from pancreatic cancer. Every day he lives is a gift. On Tuesday, he missed a day of chemotherapy and walked into the courtroom — with some difficulty — and testified with great conviction about the challenge of keeping the Enterprise seaworthy, how much he enjoyed doing it, and the degree of interest and engagement that Honors showed in maintenance issues.
“I love the Navy,” Gilbert blurted out at one point. “I’m retired. I pressed my uniform this morning to come down here and see y’all.”
And of Captain Honors?
“He’s an American hero,” he said, pointing at the captain.
The political zeitgeist surrounding the issue of CAPT Honor’s videos was unmistakable, but so was the support that he received on the deck plates. It probably helped that the board was comprised of junior flag officers, all of them aviators, all of whom understand the naval aviation culture and all of whom resisted applying the fashionable situational ethics of Manhattan and Georgetown to an arduous deployment to a combat zone in the uttermost parts of the sea. Their findings were common sense, and I dearly hope that they don’t pay for it.
They had a little top cover: Also dialing in was a senior flag officer of my casual acquaintance:
One high-profile witness had been scheduled to testify from the Pentagon, but it was unclear if a telephone connection coul be established.
As it turned out, Vice Adm. William Gortney, director of the Joint Staff, was just bit late getting on the phone.
His testimony concerning Honors was typical of those defended his character: A glowing assessment of his career and his demeanor, disappointment in the video episode, but urging the board to keep Honors in the Navy.