WASHINGTON/SPOKANE, WASHINGTON - An air crew who used their U.S. Navy warplane to create a vulgar graffito in the sky above the town of Okanogan, Washington, have been grounded, the navy said Friday.
An electronic warfare plane from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island near Seattle drew the male genitals with its contrails on Thursday.
Many residents of the central Washington town of 2,500 people spotted the scrawl in the clear skies, and images of it immediately went viral on social media. A local television station said one mother in Okanogan County was concerned she might have to explain it to her young children.
The aircraft involved was an E/A-18 Growler, the navy said. The carrier-based plane carries a two-person crew: a pilot and a weapon system officer. The names of the crew were not released.
The navy, which is trying to crack down on sexual assault in its ranks, issued a formal apology Friday for what it called an “irresponsible and immature act.”
“Sophomoric and immature antics of a sexual nature have no place in Naval aviation today,” Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, the commander of Naval Air Forces, said in a statement. “We will investigate this incident to get all the facts and act accordingly.”
A separate statement issued Friday by NAS Whidbey Island called the actions “wholly unacceptable and antithetical to Navy core values.”
“We have grounded the aircrew and are conducting a thorough investigation,” the statement said, “and we will hold those responsible accountable for their actions.”
“The Navy apologizes for this irresponsible and immature act, and anyone who was offended by this unacceptable action,” the statement added.
Ramon Duran told The Spokesman-Review newspaper that he was running errands when he noticed the jet drawing the male genitalia.
“After it made the circles at the bottom, I knew what it was and started laughing,” Duran said. “It was pretty funny to see that. You don’t expect to see something like that.”