Residents of Washington state in the US turned their eyes to a clear blue sky on Thursday (Friday NZ time) and found themselves staring at a cartoonish rendering of male genitalia, sketched in smoke by at least one US Navy EA-18G Growler jet flying out of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
The image stretched hundreds of feet high over the Okanogan highlands, based on photographs shared on social media.
Lieutenant Commander Leslie Hubbell, a Navy spokeswoman, called the incident “absolutely unacceptable”, saying it holds no training value and is under investigation. Lieutenant Commander Leslie Hubbell, a Navy spokeswoman, called the incident “absolutely unacceptable”, saying it holds no training value and is under investigation. The unit involved, Electronic Attack Squadron 130, flies a two-person variant of the F/A-18 Super Hornet and specializes in electronic warfare. The aircrew responsible has not been identified.
“We will not tolerate this behavior,” Hubbell said. “This is not indicative of the overall population of our folks.”
The US Defense Department has placed heightened emphasis on sexual harassment and sexual assault in the ranks. And while it’s not immediately clear what this investigation will yield, it’s evident that the Navy is taking it very seriously.
This is not the first time a military pilot has drawn similar images. A Royal Air Force jet drew what appeared to be a penis in the sky over Scotland in 2014. The RAF later concluded the suggestive smoke trails were caused by a pilot circling in a holding pattern while waiting to land.
In the United States, the Navy’s elite flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, also was cited in an investigation released in 2014 for painting a giant penis on the roof of a trailer at its winter training home in El Centro, California, where pilots could see it from above. The blue-and-gold painting was so large that it could be seen on satellite imagery available on Google Maps, the Navy found.
The Blue Angels’ commanding officer at the time, Navy Captain Gregory McWherter, was reprimanded for failing to stop sexual harassment and condoning pornography and homophobia in the workplace. Investigators also cited his call sign, “Stiffy”.
“This Commanding Officer witnessed, accepted, and encouraged behavior that, while juvenile and sophomoric in the beginning, ultimately and in the aggregate, became destructive, toxic and hostile,” the Navy’s report said.
Under his command, the Blue Angels environment “ran counter to established Navy standards and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and dramatically weakened good order and discipline”. It’s unclear what fate awaits the pilot in this latest incident. According to a Navy Department manual released earlier this year, incidents of sexual harassment “cover a wide range of behaviors, from verbal comments to physical acts, and can be subtle or overt”. If the skywriting over Washington is determined to be sexual harassment aimed at someone in the same squadron, service members involved could be […]