Former Blue Angels’ CO Reprimanded at Admiral’s Mast

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) — At an Admiral’s Mast proceeding on June 2, a former
commanding officer of the U.S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron – the Blue
Angels – was found guilty of violating Uniform Code Military Justice articles 92
(failure to obey an order or regulation) and 133 (conduct unbecoming of an
officer) by fostering a hostile command climate, 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.

As a result, Capt. Gregory McWherter was given non-judicial punishment in the form of a punitive letter of reprimand.

Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Adm. Harry Harris Jr., convened the Admiral’s Mast after an investigation he ordered found McWherter allowed his officers and senior enlisted personnel to engage in inappropriate and sexually harassing behavior that significantly contributed to an unprofessional command climate during his second command tour as the Blue Angels commanding officer from May 2011 to November 2012.

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. According to the investigation, at no time did the behavior lead to sexual assault.

The investigation found that McWherter had a successful tour as the Blue Angels commanding officer from 2008 to 2010; however, during his second command tour, the Blue Angels ready room environment degraded and ran counter to established Navy standards and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Upon assuming command from McWherter in November 2012, the investigation notes, the present Blue Angels’ commanding officer reestablished good order and discipline in the squadron by exercising
leadership in the manner the Navy expects of all its commanding officers.

The investigation found that with his implicit and explicit approval of unacceptable behavior, McWherter set a moral standard far below Navy expectations. Harris found McWherter, as the commanding officer, to be primarily responsible for the unacceptable behavior.

“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 noted in his final endorsement of the investigation. “Navy leaders must treat all personnel fairly, with dignity, and with respect. Everyone is entitled to work in an environment free of unlawful behavior and offensive material.

“Capt. McWherter failed to maintain appropriate good order and discipline in his unit,” Harris concluded.

Harris ordered the investigation after a servicemember filed an official complaint with the Navy on March 24. Based on the initial findings of the investigation, McWherter was
relieved of his duties as executive officer of Naval Base Coronado, Calif., on April 18, and reassigned temporarily to the staff of Commander, Naval Air Force Pacific in San Diego. As a “fleet-up” position, McWherter was scheduled to become the Naval Base Coronado commanding officer in April 2015.

Several junior personnel assigned to the Blue Angels during McWherter’s second command tour received formal written counseling for their roles in participating in the
improper behavior during that time frame. The counseling provided to these
individuals is non-punitive in nature and is intended as a tool to remedy a
noted deficiency in their conduct and performance of duty. McWherter was held
ultimately responsible and accountable for the actions of these junior personnel
while he was in command.

“Our Navy has very high standards of conduct for all of our personnel,” said Vice Adm. David Buss, commander, Naval Air Force Pacific. “The totally inappropriate command environment fostered by Capt. McWherter was so unacceptable that it should have been clear to each member of the team that standards of personal decency and respect were violated. I will not accept the encouragement of such behavior on the part of a leader entrusted with the responsibility of command.”

As a result of the investigation’s findings and to mitigate any potential future problems, Harris directed Buss to review a number of policies, procedures and organizational issues related to the Pensacola-based Blue Angels. These reviews are expected to be completed in the next few months.

Back to Top