New information shows the former commander of the Navy’s popular Blue Angels demonstration squadron was fired for allegations he had allowed the unit to become rife with sexual harassment, hazing and other forms of discrimination against members of the team.
The Washington Post reports Capt. Gregory McWherter was under investigation following complaints from a member of the Blue Angels – a key Navy recruiting tool known for their expert aerial maneuvers at air shows – that he allowed and at times encouraged sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. The findings prompted McWherter to be relieved of duty as the as executive officer of Naval Base Coronado last week.
McWherter reportedly cultivated an atmosphere in the Blue Angels squadron that included pornography, explicit speech and crude jokes regarding sexual orientation, the Post reports.
As commander of the unit, McWherter flew the No. 1 fighter jet in formation. He has served as commander on two separate occasions, logged 5,500 flying hours in his military career and is also a graduate of the Navy’s elite “Top Gun” fighter jet school.
A Navy spokesman told the Post, “We remain fully committed to accountability, transparency, and protecting the integrity of ongoing investigations.”
McWherter did not respond to the Post’s requests for comment.
"All Navy leaders, whether assigned to a highly visible unit like the 'Blues,' or to our installations, squadrons, ships and submarines, are held to the highest standards," Vice Adm. David Buss, commander of Naval Air Forces, told The Los Angeles Times.
The professionalism of their aerial performance remains unquestioned, Buss said.
"We cannot, however, limit our judgment to that alone, to the dazzling feats of skill and daring seen in their flight demonstrations,” he added. “A Naval officer is a complete leader and must be someone worthy of the respect given by the crowds attending the air shows where the Blues perform.”
McWherter had served as the squadron’s commander from November 2008 to November 2010, and again from May 2011 to November 2012.