The “sky penis” gave Naval Air Station Whidbey Island unwanted international exposure again this week.
The Navy News published a story based on the Navy’s lengthy investigative report and a recording from the cockpit inside an EA-18G Growler as two junior officers decide to draw a penis in the sky over Eastern Washington with exhaust from the jet two years ago.
To the chagrin of Navy leaders, the incident quickly became famous, or infamous, thanks to the internet and stories with a lot of bad puns. Photos of the sky graffiti went viral; some people were outraged, others not so much.
The Navy News reported that it even inspired shot glasses and memes ahead of an Army-Navy game.
This week, the newly released conversation in the cockpit added fuel to the fire. The officers, who were with the “Zappers” of Electronic Attack Squadron 130, can be heard discussing how to shape the prodigious graffiti and joking about its attributes.
Once again, loads of media outlets — from the Washington Post to the Montreal Gazette to Fox News — covered the story, as did a proliferation of random websites.
The investigator’s report shows that Navy leadership immediately recognized the possibility of a media storm following the incident, sending alerts as high up as the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
The Navy quickly issued a public apology.
But while the investigation concluded that the “sky writing” was immature, unprofessional and a misuse of government resources, it also pointed out that “it was not premeditated or planned and not in keeping with (the officers’) character demonstrated prior to the incident.”
The investigation also probed whether the incident was indicative of a problem with the culture in the squadron but identified no concerns, finding “no indications of poor command climate and no evidence or allegations (of) overt sexism or misogyny.”
“This was a really bad decision by some really good guys in a really good squadron,” a squadron officer said in the report.
The junior officers were disciplined but the details have not been released.