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Ex-Blue Angels leader found guilty of allowing sexual harassment

Navy Capt. Gregory McWherter, found guilty of allowing sexual harassment, led the Navy's Blue Angels
Capt. Gregory McWherter, guilty of allowing sexual harassment, had been in command at Naval Base Coronado

The former commanding officer of the Navy's famed Blue Angels flight demonstration squad was found guilty of "failing to stop obvious and repeated instances of sexual harassment," the Navy said Tuesday.

Capt. Gregory McWherter was given a non-judicial punitive letter of reprimand, a move that is usually career-ending.

The guilty decision was made Monday after an "admiral's mast" was convened at Pearl Harbor by Adm. Harry Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

A Navy investigation had found 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.

McWherter condoned "widespread lewd practices" and engaged in "inappropriate and unprofessional discussions with his junior officers."

McWherter allowed pornography in the cockpits of the Blue Angels planes and also on a restricted website, the Navy said. 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.

An admiral's mast involves an admiral reviewing documents and listening to an officer's explanation and then meting out any necessary punishment.

McWherter was commanding officer and flight leader of the Blue Angels from November 2008 to November 2010, and then from May 2011 to November 2012.

During the investigation, he was relieved of command as executive officer of Naval Base Coronado in April. He was set to become commanding officer of the base next year.

Several junior personnel who served with McWherter at the Blue Angels have been given counseling about sexual harassment, the Navy said.

"The behaviors that led to the outcome of the admiral's mast for Capt. Greg McWherter are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in any Navy squadron, let alone in our elite flight demonstration team," said Vice Adm. David Buss, commander of Naval Air Forces.

McWherter, an F/A-18 Hornet pilot, has logged 5,500 flight hours and 950 aircraft carrier landings during training missions and deployments to the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf and western Pacific.

He was an instructor at the Fighter Weapons School, known as Top Gun. During his second tour with the Blue Angels, McWherter, a graduate of the Citadel, received an award for his "leadership and contributions" to the North American air show industry.

tony.perry@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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