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Navy investigating complaint that former Blue Angels leader allowed, encouraged lewd behavior

Blue Angels.JPEG

In this Sept. 10, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Navy, Capt. Greg McWherter, commanding officer and flight leader of the U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, responds to the crowd at the Guardians of Freedom Air Show in Lincoln, Neb. The U.S. Navy says McWherter has been relieved of duty over misconduct while he was commanding officer of the Blue Angels. McWherter allegedly allowed and in some cases encouraged sexually explicit humor, lewd speech and inappropriate comments among the famed precision flying team. McWherter's most recent post was as executive officer of Naval Base Coronado. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Jen Blake) (The Associated Press)

A former commanding officer of the Navy's Blue Angels allowed, and in some cases encouraged, sexually explicit humor and inappropriate comments among members of the famed precision flying team, the U.S. Navy contended Wednesday.

The service released some details of a complaint filed with the Navy's inspector general against Capt. Gregory McWherter, who on Friday was relieved of duty as executive officer of Naval Base Coronado.

At the time, the Navy said only that it was investigating "inappropriate command climate" at the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron based at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.

However, an ongoing investigation has indicated that McWherter, during his two stints as Blue Angels leader between 2008 and 2012, "tolerated an inappropriate work environment within the squadron which may have violated the Navy's sexual harassment, hazing and equal opportunity policies," a Navy statement said.

"The complaint alleges that lewd speech, inappropriate comments, and sexually explicit humor were allowed in the workplace and in some case encouraged by the commanding officer," and that "pornographic images were displayed in the workplace and shared in electronic communications," the statement said.

"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 Admiral David Buss, commander of the Naval Air Forces, said in the statement. "The Navy expects everyone, from those officers in command positions to sailors on the waterfront, to provide principled and highly ethical leadership, stressing discipline, accountability, and the importance of treating shipmates with dignity and respect."

The Blue Angels are continuing their training and there have been no changes to their performance schedule, the Navy added.

McWherter has been temporarily reassigned to Naval Air Forces in San Diego. An after-hours call to the media office to leave a message seeking comment from McWherter was not immediately returned.

McWherter served as commanding officer of the Blue Angels from November 2008 to November 2010, and then from May 2011 to November 2012.

An Atlanta native and graduate of The Citadel, McWherter is an F/A-18 pilot with multiple tours in combat squadrons, including three deployments aboard the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, according to U-T San Diego. He is a graduate of the Navy's Fighter Weapons School, known as Top Gun, and won the 2003 Commander Naval Air Forces Leadership Award. He was also VFA-131's Pilot of the Year in 1996.

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