Pinup video on military base raises eyebrows in Utah

Written By kolimtiga on Jumat, 07 November 2014 | 12.56

The girlie video was intended as pure cheesecake. But for Jennifer Seelig, it was more like a horror flick.

Seelig, minority leader in the Utah House, learned of the controversial footage last month as she boarded a flight to Washington. While in the air, she watched the risque "behind the scenes" advertorial to promote a 2015 Hot Shots pinup calendar produced in Britain.

The video, which was shot in May, shows busty models in tight pants and bikinis firing automatic weapons as they cavort on U.S. military equipment at a U.S. military installation helpfully guided by members of the U.S. military.

"All I could say while watching was: 'Oh. My. Gosh.' It was shocking," she said.

The incident would raise eyebrows anywhere. But this is Utah, conservative bastion and home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. No wonder it's being viewed as an embarrassment as well as an outrage. Some also worry about the message it sends.

"This escapade flies in the face of progress in the military and sends out this archaic message to girls and to women that their true value lies in their body parts," Seelig said. "Apparently, the Guard's so-called security protocols aren't robust enough to keep a bunch of calendar girls and their crew and assorted groupies off a military base."

Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton, the Utah National Guard's top commander, told lawmakers the actions were "a total violation of the values we espouse." He added of the men involved: "I'm also very concerned about them and their personal state of mind that would have allowed them to do something like this."

In what the news media here have dubbed the "salacious swimsuit calendar scandal," the Utah National Guard is investigating the video, which officials say was partially filmed at the Camp Williams training facility 25 miles south of Salt Lake City. The men involved — including combat veterans and Purple Heart recipients — face the possibility of fines, demotions or forced retirements.

"Productions of this kind are not in keeping with the values of the Utah National Guard nor its members," the agency said in a statement. Other scenes were filmed at a gun club called the Big Shot Ranch.

A separate Utah state police inquiry is examining two uniformed special operations members who officials said took part in the filming and who also supplied three state-owned guns for props. "Two good officers who made a poor decision," said Capt. Doug McCleve, a Utah Department of Public Safety spokesman.

Seelig, who sits on the Executive Appropriations Committee that has some oversight of the Utah National Guard, said lawmakers would closely monitor both investigations.

Guard officials said the men were told proceeds from the calendar's sale would go to the Wounded Warriors Fund. The British producers did not respond to requests for comment.

The five-minute video features a guitar-screaming backbeat as scantily-clad models fire such weapons as a Glock-18 pistol and M-4 rifle. One model fires a blast from an M134 Minigun, capable of releasing 6,000 rounds a minute, and says, simply, "Sick."

Another rides on a personnel carrier, proclaiming, "I want my own tank."

And another: "We've got loads of tanks, boats, helicopters and, of course, loaded guns." She adds: "Yeah!"

McCleve said a high-ranking Utah Highway Patrol commander was riding his stationary bike at home when he saw local news reports of the video.

"He saw girls in bikinis and said, 'The Guard has a story here,'" McCleve said. "Then he saw two guys helping the girls on the firing line. They were wearing our uniforms. And he knew both of them."

Robert Voyles is the director of the Ft. Douglas Military Museum, where models posed before two Vietnam War-era helicopters. "The models got inside the choppers," he said. "They sat in the cockpit."

Arlo Johnson, a museum docent, said he was told the women would wear bikinis, "but that it would be no worse than a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition."

He said the incident was blown out of proportion: "It's election season in an ultra-conservative state. Pinups have been part of the military since the Civil War, from foxholes to barracks."

Seelig has received letters from around the nation criticizing her stance.

"There have been three kinds of critics: The first type says, 'Oh, shut up. Boys will be boys.' The second kind say, 'You're just jealous; you want to be on a calendar.' And the third type says, 'You're just an uptight Utah Mormon worried about people showing skin.'"

She added: "The funny thing is I'm not Mormon and I'm not even from Utah. I was born in Kentucky."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

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