A former commanding officer of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels flying aerobatic team has been reprimanded -- and his career is likely over -- after he was found guilty of charges sparked by a sexual harassment complaint filed while he commanded the elite flying squadron.
The Navy says Capt. Gregory McWherter was found guilty of failure to obey an order or regulation and conduct unbecoming of an officer during an “Admiral’s Mast” hearing.
The proceeding is a disciplinary hearing where an admiral hears evidence, determines the validity of the charges, and imposes punishment -- if any.
In making the announcement that McWherter had been found guilty, the U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs office says the hearing was called to investigate charges that while the veteran officer was in command of the Blue Angels he had allowed his officers and senior enlisted personnel to engage in what the Navy termed “inappropriate and sexually harassing behavior.”
That behavior, according to the final report of the investigation, included McWherter allowing “explicit pornography and sexually suggestive images in the cockpits” and “the painting of male genitalia on the roof of a trailer” at a Blue Angels training facility.
McWherter had commanded the elite squadron from 2008 to 2010, then again from May 2011 to November 2012.
The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Adm. Harry Harris Jr., had ordered the investigation after the Navy received a complaint in March alleging sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior within the Blue Angels.
The Navy says the its investigation found that McWherter had “witnessed, condoned, and encouraged behavior that, while juvenile and sophomoric in the beginning, ultimately and in the aggregate, became destructive, toxic, and hostile.”
The investigation did not find any evidence of sexual assault, but did conclude McWherter was responsible for a hostile work environment.
“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 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.”
Shortly after the investigation was launched, McWherter was relieved of his duties as executive officer of Naval Base Coronado, a combination of several Navy installations in Southern California, on April 18.
His removal as the second-highest ranking officer on the base was described as being “fired” by the Navy Times.
A graduate of the Navy’s “Top Gun” fighter pilot school and an officer with a once stellar reputation, McWherter had been scheduled to become the commanding officer of the base in April of 2015.
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