NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — The U.S. Navy’s top commander in Europe delivered a blunt message to senior enlisted sailors and officers: If you want to be a good leader, you have to behave like one.

Adm. Michael Mullen, commander of Naval Forces Europe, told several hundred officers and chief petty officers in a closed-door meeting in Rota on Tuesday that he has high expectations for personal conduct, especially overseas.

A skit two months ago in which soon-to-be chief petty officers showed a sex toy served as Mullen’s prime example of what not to do.

The Sept. 9 incident happened a month before Mullen took command, but he said it “stood out as an example of poor leadership and lack of professionalism.”

“I really wanted to emphasize that our actions speak a whole lot louder than our words do,” Mullen told Stars and Stripes in a phone interview from Naples, Italy, after returning from Rota. What happened at the skit “really appalled me and I wanted to make sure they understood that,” he added.

Mullen, who also heads NATO’s Joint Forces Command Naples, is visiting U.S. Navy bases in the region.

This was his first trip to Rota since taking command on Oct. 8. The importance of leadership development and personal behavior is one of his top priorities as commander.

He said Navy leaders must pay attention to the sailors under their command and do their best to reduce such off-duty activities as alcohol abuse, drug use and suicide. If senior enlisted sailors and officers do not intervene, he said, it could affect the mission of the fleet.

“I will do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Mullen said.

The incident involving the sex toy started out as a gag but led to an investigation and the delay of the chief petty officer pinning ceremony.

Soon after news spread about the skit, the investigation became an issue of debate in the chief community across the globe.

While some acknowledged that it was wrong, some thought the issue was overblown and should have been dealt with among the chiefs.

It happened during chief initiation, or what the Navy calls the “transition” process. First-class petty officers selected to chief traditionally go through a six-week initiation before the culminating pinning ceremony.

In front of a crowd of only base chief petty officers, a sailor twice briefly displayed a vibrator.

Capt. John Orem, commander of U.S. forces in Rota, took nonpunitive administrative action against the 13 chief petty officers involved in the skit and against those responsible for organizing the event. However, base officials would not go into details of the action taken.

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