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Ex-Blue Angels CO resigns from Tailhook presidency

May. 3, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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Correction

A previous version of this article misstated the first name of AO1 Parks. Her first name is Alicia.

A former Blue Angels commander has resigned as president of the Tailhook Association amid an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment during his time as leader of the Navy’s famed precision flying team — allegations that run contrary to support the CO has received from female officers who served in the unit.

Capt. Gregory McWherter, who was relieved as executive officer of Naval Base Coronado, Calif., submitted his resignation via email April 25, said retired Capt. J.R. Davis, director of the San Diego-based nonprofit aviator fraternity. McWherter stated in his resignation email that the ongoing investigation would be a distraction to him and the Tailhook Association, Davis said.

As the investigation continues into allegations that he tolerated inappropriate comments and pornographic images in the workplace of the Blue Angels during his two stints as its leader between 2008 and 2012, McWherter’s supporters continue to rally online. A Facebook page entitled “Support Boss Greg McWherter” that began shortly after McWherter’s firing has received numerous posts and, as of May 2, more than 4,500 “likes.”

Former Air Force wife Sherri Viniard, who described herself as an acquaintance of McWherter, started the page as a way to centralize the Facebook chatter surrounding the allegations.

“I have been amazed by the support we’ve had and the fact that so many women who have worked with and served under Capt. McWherter have come forward with their support,” Viniard said.

Backing 'Boss'

Navy Times reached out to several of these women, who responded through email.

One of them, Lt. Cmdr. Amy Redditt Tomlinson, is a naval flight officer who has flown in combat as a back-seater in both F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18F Super Hornets. In 2008, she became the first woman to be selected for a numbered position in the Blue Angels and rode in the back seat of one of the jets during her time on the team.

“I served with ... McWherter on the Blue Angels team for the 2009 and 2010 show seasons,” she said in an April 30 email. “Boss McWherter set a command climate of pride and professionalism everyday [sic] he came to work, he always treated me with respect and I loved coming to work everyday while I was Blue Angel #8!”

When asked whether she’d encountered any of the alleged behavior or if she was aware of it happening in the command, she deferred, citing the investigation.

“We are taught to follow a few guidelines with an active investigation open and due to us still being in the service,” she said. “But we all had nothing but positive experiences, all around.”

In saying “we,” Tomlinson was referring to two other women — both enlisted — who contacted Navy Times via email.

Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class (AW) Alicia Parks, who served as a crew chief with the Blues during the 2009 and 2010 show seasons, said she was directly responsible for helping launch McWherter’s aircraft during the shows — something she’s still proud of.

“He is the type of leader that any sailor would want to aspire to become,” she wrote to Navy Times on May 1. “I can heartly [sic] say that Boss McWherter is the best naval officer I have ever met.

“He modeled the very pride and professionalism that he expected from his fellow team members. I was very proud to introduce him to my family and friends at air shows. I would love to work under Boss McWherter’s direction again.”

Another enlisted female sailor who served under McWherter said, in part, that she “never saw (or heard any stories of) Boss McWherter behaving in a way that was anything other than professional.”

She requested her name not be used.

Navy Times reached out to others who had served with McWherter via Facebook, including male personnel, but received no other replies as of May 2.

McWherter has been temporarily reassigned to Naval Air Forces in San Diego. He did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

Davis, the Tailhook director, said he did not know anything about the allegations against McWherter, who had served as the association’s president since September.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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