McWherter gets reprimand after Admiral’s Mast

Capt. McWherter

Capt. McWherter

Capt. Gregory McWherter, graduate of Top Gun school, was relieved of his post in April amid misconduct allegations

By Snejana Farberov

Published: 22:37 GMT

A former Blue Angels commander tolerated inappropriate sexual comments and naked pictures in the cockpits of the team’s planes during his time as its leader, the Navy said Tuesday. Capt. Gregory McWherter was found guilty of violating two articles under the military’s code of justice during nonjudicial proceedings convened Monday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The articles were failure to obey an order or regulation and conduct unbecoming of an officer by fostering a hostile command climate and failing to stop ‘obvious and repeated instances of sexual harassment, condoning widespread lewd practices within the squadron and engaging in inappropriate and unprofessional discussions with his junior officers,’ the Navy said in a statement.

He will be given a letter of reprimand that will go in McWherter’s permanent file and is widely seen as a career-ender in the service. The Navy said his command had explicit pornography, including photos of naked women, in aircraft cockpits; the painting of giant male genitalia in blue and gold on the roof of the center point trailer at the Blue Angels’ winter training facilities in El Centro; and sexually charged, raunchy, and homophobic humor on maps and itineraries.

According to the Navy’s 63-page report obtained by Washington Post, newly hired pilots were hazed by being forced to wear ‘foam penis’ hats. Crew members also kept binoculars in the cockpits to help them spot scantily-clad women in air show crowds. The report stated McWherter, whose call sign was ‘Stiffy,’ encouraged a sex-obsessed environment more common in a fraternity house than a flight team.

McWherter was relieved in April from his duty as executive officer of Naval Base Coronado in California amid the allegations during his second stint as the Blue Angels’ leader from May 2011 to November 2012. The Navy said it did not find problems during his first stint as the flying team’s commanding officer from 2008 to 2010. ‘The investigation concluded that McWherter witnessed, condoned, and encouraged behavior that, while juvenile and sophomoric in the beginning, ultimately and in the aggregate, became destructive, toxic, and hostile,’ the Navy said in a statement. The Navy said investigators found no evidence the behavior led to sexual assault.

Harry Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, ordered the investigation after a service member filed an official complaint with the Navy on March 24. The Blue Angels’ mission is to publicly represent the best of Naval Aviation and Harris said ‘the actions of Captain McWherter jeopardized that mission.’ ‘Commanding officers have an enduring obligation to maintain a proper work environment at all times and in all places and spaces; and they will be held accountable as appropriate when they fail,’ Harris said.

Ousted: McWherter was relieved in April from his post amid the allegations during his second stint as the Blue Angels’ leader from May 2011 to November 2012

Several junior personnel who served under McWherter received formal written counseling for their behavior, but McWherter was held accountable for the actions of those in his command, the Navy said. The Blue Angels are reviewing procedures, said Vice Adm. David Buss, commander, Naval Air Force Pacific, and its new commanding officer, Thomas Frosch, started implementing measures to clean up the workplace. McWherter also was president of the Tailhook Association for about eight months before he resigned amid the probe. The San Diego-based nonprofit aviator fraternity said it knew nothing of the allegations against McWherter. The group dealt with its own scandal in 1991 when Navy pilots at its Las Vegas convention were accused of sexually abusing female officers.

McWherter, a graduate of the Citadel military college in South Carolina, served in the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf and western Pacific, and was an instructor at the famed Top Gun school.


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