A former Blue Angels commander has been found guilty of violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice, by failing to stop obvious and repeated instances of sexual harassment. Capt. Gregory McWherter was given a non-judicial punitive letter of reprimand, a usually career-ending outcome.
An investigation showed McWherter allowed his officers and senior enlisted personnel to engage in inappropriate and sexually harassing behavior during his second tour as the Blue Angels’ boss from May 2011 to November, 2012. The report said those actions “significantly contributed to an unprofessional command climate.”
McWherter’s conviction was announced after an Admiral’s Mast at Pearl Harbor by Admiral Harry Harris – Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
According to the Navy, McWherter allowed pornography in the cockpits of the Blue Angels aircraft and on a restricted website. He also allowed a painting depicting male genitalia on the roof of a Blue Angels building at its winter base in El Centro, Calif. McWherter was found guilty of violating various parts of the military justice system, including failure to obey an order and conduct unbecoming an officer.
“Yeah, that is extremely serious,” said Pensacola Mayor Emeritus John Fogg, who was a Blue Angel in the early 1970’s. “Conduct unbecoming an officer and to be found guilty of that by an admiral, I think, pretty well ends his career.”
McWherter first took over the Pensacola-based Blue Angels in November, 2008. He returned in 2011, after Commander Dave Koss was relieved of command – at his own request -- due to a performance safety violation. McWherter was on hand aboard NAS Pensacola when his successor, Commander Tom Frosch, was announced in May of 2012.
“I will miss it. I think it’s an incredible opportunity,” said McWherter. “I’m very thankful of the opportunities the Navy and Marine Corps have given me over 22 years. And the best part of the job has been the men and women I’ve worked with, and the people I’ve met throughout the country. It’s really been nice.”
Adm. Harris ordered the investigation after a service member filed an official complaint with the Navy in March. McWherter was relieved of his duties as executive officer of Naval Base Coronado, Calif., the following month. He was scheduled to become the Naval Base Coronado commanding officer next April.
Former Blue Angel John Fogg was asked about the culture among the pilots -- all-male, and closely-knit.
“In my total experience with the organization I’ve never heard of anything like this,” said Fogg. “I think it’s just highly irregular and unusual and totally unanticipated, that there would be anything like this happening with this organization.”
As a result of the investigation's findings and to mitigate any potential future problems, Adm. Harris has directed Vice Adm. David Buss -- Commander, Naval Air Force Pacific -- to review a number of policies, procedures and organizational issues related to the Blue Angels. Those reviews are expected to be completed in the next few months.
Read the full Navy investigation report here.