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Navy to retool Blue Angels after scandal

Jets fly during the Dayton air show on Saturday, June 28, 2014, in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/The Dayton Daily News, Ty Greenlees)

The Navy’s investigative report examining the leadership of former Blue Angels commanding officer Capt. Gregory McWherter is filled with embarrassing details that raise questions about his leadership and the culture in the squadron. The Navy found that McWherter chose not to stop sexual harassment and condoned pornography and creepy behavior in the workplace.

“I believe he… became susceptible to hubris and arrogance, blinding him to the common sense judgments expected of all service members, but especially those entrusted with command,” Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, wrote in the investigation’s final report.

One example: As the investigation puts it, “a large blue and gold penis was painted on the roof of the center point trailer at the Blue Angels’ winter training facilities in El Centro.” It was so large, it was “visible from satellite imagery,” including those used on Google Maps.

The Navy replaced McWherter with Cmdr. Thomas Frosch in November 2012. But it isn’t stopping there in shaking things up. Navy Times reported last night that the Blue Angels will get an executive officer — a No. 2 in command — for the first time in the squadron’s history. The selection process for the unit also will be overhauled to include more oversight from the Navy’s personnel officials.

Vice Adm. David Buss told Navy Times that he made the change because he wanted the traditional “command triad” to exist in the Blue Angels. That includes the commanding officer, the executive officer and a senior enlisted adviser, the command master chief.

That addresses an issue raised in the investigation. McWherter first led the Blue Angels without issue from 2008 to 2010. He was brought back to lead the squadron again in 2011, and failed to set effective limits on his staff’s behavior after he returned, investigators found. The basic thinking: If an executive officer, or “XO,” had been present in the Blue Angels, there would have been an additional check on what was occurring in the unit.

The changes were announced as the Navy publicized who will be in the Blue Angels in 2015. The new executive officer will be Cmdr. Bob Flynn, a S-3B naval flight officer. He will not participate in flight demonstrations, focusing instead on administrative needs, travel and training, Buss told Navy Times.

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.



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Dan Lamothe · July 23, 2014

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