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Ex-Blue Angels commander reassigned during sexual harassment inquiry

By Barbara Starr and Steve Almasy, CNN
updated 9:26 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Capt. Greg McWherter, who was then commanding officer of the Blue Angels, performs in an air show in Lincoln, Nebraska, on September 10, 2011.
Capt. Greg McWherter, who was then commanding officer of the Blue Angels, performs in an air show in Lincoln, Nebraska, on September 10, 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Capt. Gregory McWherter was at a naval base in California as a commander
  • He was relieved of duty as an investigation moved into a new phase
  • He's accused of allowing an atmosphere of lewd language, sexual jokes, pornography
  • The U.S. military has been accused of not doing enough to fight sex crimes

Washington (CNN) -- A former commander of the elite Blue Angels is being investigated by the Navy for allegations that he tolerated a work environment that violated military policies against sexual harassment, the Navy said in a news release Wednesday.

Capt. Gregory McWherter left the Navy's elite flight demonstration squad, based in Pensacola, Florida, in 2012.

More recently, he was relieved of his duties as second-in-command at a California naval base and reassigned as the Navy looks into the allegations that reportedly occurred more than two years ago, the Navy said.

McWherter is being investigated for allegedly allowing -- and sometimes encouraging -- "lewd speech, inappropriate comments, and sexually explicit humor" at work, the statement said. There were also allegations that pornographic pictures were shared at the office and in electronic correspondence.

2012: Sailor keeps the Blue Angels flying high

CNN has reached out to McWherter for comment but had not heard back early Thursday morning.

The case is the latest involving a U.S. military commander being investigated for violating sexual harassment policies and comes at a time when many have accused the military of not doing enough to address sex crimes and harassment targeting women.

"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," said Vice Adm. David Buss, commander of the Naval Air Forces.

The Washington Post first reported McWherter's reassignment Wednesday.

The Navy's statement said someone filed a complaint with the Navy inspector general, though it didn't specify when.

McWherter was relieved as executive officer of Naval Base Coronado in San Diego on Friday after the investigation "revealed additional details" about the alleged atmosphere around the Blue Angels while McWherter was their leader.

The McWherter investigation comes to light about a month after a former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan was ordered to pay thousands of dollars but avoided prison time in a case that put a spotlight on the military's handling of sexual misconduct among troops.

Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair was told in late March that he'd get a reprimand, and he must forfeit $20,000 and pay restitution of $4,157 related to travel fraud charges, his lawyer, Richard Scheff, told CNN.

The most recent Pentagon report on sexual assaults showed that there were estimated to be 26,000 incidents of assault and unwanted sexual contact in 2012, and just over 10% of those were reported.

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