Latest military officer under investigation: Are we looking at necessary housecleaning or a purge?

Conservatives have noticed that the Pentagon is firing officers left and right, with many leaving under an embarrassing cloud.  The question they ask — and I don’t know that anyone has an answer — is whether these firings are the legitimate and appropriate housecleaning that a sclerotic bureaucracy needs or whether they’re a purge, with Obama’s New Age, gender flexible, fighting optional military getting rid of people in command positions who actually think that the military’s job is to wage war in America’s defense.

All I know is that the latest person being investigated as a predicate to an inevitable firing is someone I’ve actually met.  Back in October 2009, I got the opportunity to attend a party that had, as its guests, members of the Blue Angels.  I wrote about it here.  I also included a photograph I took of all the guys (plus two gals) lined up:

photo (5)
Please take special notice of the guy in the center (or more accurately, sixth from the left). We spent a few minutes speaking with him and found him to be — as all these officers were — personable, intelligent, and respectful.

Now, though, a debate rages about just how respectful this specific officer actually was:

Capt Gregory McWherter Blue Angel

A former commanding officer of the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, has been removed from his current post after accusations that he ‘tolerated an inappropriate work environment.’

Capt. Gregory McWherter 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 on Wednesday.

McWherter was relieved of duty as executive officer of Naval Base Coronado on Friday after a complaint was filed with the Navy’s inspector general about an ‘inappropriate command climate’ at the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron based at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.

During his two stints as Blue Angels leader between 2008 and 2012, McWherter ‘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.

Significantly, McWherter got a strong vote of support from a woman who served under his command:

‘At one point there was a command survey and one came back that men didn’t treat women fairly,’ Melinda Cary, who served under McWherter during 2006 to 2008, told The News Journal.

‘The first thing he did was bring us to talk about who was telling jokes. And he went out, and, I guess, set them straight. He followed up and made sure we weren’t still having trouble.’

Maybe McWherter is a sexist pig who ought never to have been allowed a command. Or maybe he’s an old-fashioned warrior who is making too much trouble in a modern military determined to serve as a giant Leftist social experiment, rather than hewing to its traditional responsibility as America’s protector.

(To see a better picture of McWherter, click on over to the Daily Mail article.  For some reason, I’m  not able to upload new photos to my site this morning.)

UPDATE: I was finally able to upload a picture of McWherter.

Navy responds to sequester by torturing American people (or, put another way, it cancels Blue Angels shows)

Blue Angels

(I wrote this for Mr. Conservative, but it’s pure Bookworm in word and thought, so I’m republishing it here.  Frankly, I’m spitting mad, because regular readers know exactly how much I love Fleet Week.)

Sequester or not, there always seems to be money for the Obamas to live the lush life. As for the rest of us, the Navy announced today that the Navy’s Blue Angels, which delight hundreds of thousands of people every year, and which bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to the communities in which they perform, have been grounded.

The official announcement is effective immediately, cancelling all performances currently scheduled between now and December. The squadron will continue to train, but the shows are over for the time being:

The Navy has cancelled the remaining 2013 performances of its Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels. The Squadron will continue to train to maintain flying proficiency until further notice at its home station in Pensacola. Recognizing budget realities, current Defense policy states that outreach events can only be supported with local assets at no cost to the government.

Perhaps it’s reasonable to ground the Blues; but more likely it’s not. After all, as Sen. Coburn revealed in a recent study about wasteful spending in the military, the military spends a lot of money on touchy-feely or green programs that have nothing to do with military preparedness or with connecting ordinary Americans to their military, and that have everything to do with PC pandering to Beltway Progressive sensibilities. These programs include duplicative research programs, ineffective bomb detectors made by families with nepotistic ties to agency brass, creating coffee break apps, teaching grill safety, etc. Indeed, the military is still contemplating abandoning $36 billion worth of military hardware in Afghanistan.

This type of administrative waste (with has nothing to do with the quality of the men and women who serve), puts the military right in line with a federal government that uses taxpayer dollars to fund studies about alcoholic lesbians, makes it impossible to fire bad workers, and generally wastes your money.

What’s most like is that the point of the Blues’ grounding is to ignore the waste in favor of making the taxpayers suffer. How else can the government force people to stop their relentless (and reasonable) demand that the government act responsibly with other people’s money? The Pentagon – which is under Obama administration control – is letting the people know that any cuts to the government won’t improve efficiency, but will simply make taxpayers miserable. Cancelling the Blue Angels show is a special kind of misery, because it not only disappoints the Blues’ legion of fans, it also causes real economic hurt to the cities that host the show. Shows routinely draw in cities hundreds of thousands of fans who spend real money – in hotels, in restaurants, and in stores.

And just to keep things in perspective, keep in mind that tonight the White House is hosting yet another exclusive party. According to the White House schedule, Michelle and Obama are hosting a concert “celebrating Memphis Soul.” The President will speak. The guests include performers who are not known for Memphis Soul, such as Justin Timberlake, Cyndi Lauper, and Queen Latifah, not to mention Al Green, Ben Harper, Sam Moore, and others. The White House refuses to release details that will help calculate what this little party will cost the taxpayers. One thing is for sure – the money spent will not confer any benefit on the communities that will be harmed when the Blue Angels stop flying.

The Blue Angels are about to be grounded

Blue Angels

Long-time readers know that Fleet Week is a BIG DEAL in the Bookworm household.  Thanks to our membership in the Navy League, we’ve seen the Blue Angels from the deck of the USS Carl Vinson, as well as from the middle of the Bay on a Coast Guard cutter.  We even had the pleasure of attending a reception at which we got to meet members of the Blue Angels team.

The Blue Angels don’t just fly for my, and my family’s, pleasure.  They are a good will ambassador for the Navy and, for those cities that host Fleet Week, they draw tens of thousands of people who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Fleet Week is one of the most profitable weeks of the year for San Francisco’s hotels and stores, and that’s because the Blue Angels are an incredible draw.
Sadly, though, while the oxymoronically publicly funded “private” Corporation for Public Broadcasting seems untouchable, and keeps grinding out Leftist pap, the military is facing spending cuts, whether from sequestering or from Obama’s knife.  So, bye-bye Blues:

As the sequester cuts Obama signed into law in August 2011 draw closer to implementation, the Navy is making plans to ground the Blue Angels during the latter half of 2013.

This was revealed by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert last week, when he sent out a memo showing the Navy’s plan for complying with the cuts.

Grounding the Blue Angels for half a year will entail canceling 30 shows and will save approximately $20 million.

Greenert says the Navy is already making cuts “because of Congress’s failures to pass…spending bills last year,” and if sequester hits it will cost them an additional $4 billion for 2013 alone.

Given inevitable budget cuts, it’s reasonable to ground the Blues, which aren’t directly related to America’s defense.  I suspect, though, that the military is also making a point.  After all, as Sen. Coburn revealed, the military spends a lot of money on touchy-feely or green programs that have nothing to do with military preparedness or with connecting ordinary Americans to their military, and everything to do with PC pandering to satisfying Beltway Progressive sensibilities.  While the general public won’t care if those programs stay or go, they’ll care a great deal if the Blue Angels vanish from the scene.

San Francisco’s 2010 Fleet Week is going to be a wonderful one

One of the highlights of my life since I joined the Navy League is Fleet Week, held every October here in San Francisco.  This isn’t because I have such a pathetic life that anything out of the ordinary is exciting.  Nooo.  It’s because Fleet Week, which is always a great event, gets amped up on steroids if you’re a Navy League member.

The added thrill for Fleet Week comes about because Navy League members get tours and other opportunities that aren’t open to the general public.  (I’ve written about these tours and events here, here, here, here.)  If you’re lucky, you also get the heads up on non-Navy League events that are nevertheless more widely advertised in Navy League circles, than in ordinary, civilian circles.  Examples of that would be meeting the Blue Angels or getting an opportunity to attend the annual Midway Celebration.  Neither of these was a Navy League event, and both cost a bit, but both were extraordinary opportunities that I wouldn’t have known about but for the Navy League, and both were well worth the money.

October is still a while away, but I got word that there are going to be lots of ships in San Francisco — something that the official Fleet Week website confirms:

The United States Navy’s 3rd Fleet is sending a task force of ships to include:
- a large deck amphibious assult ship (LDH),
- a cruiser,
- a destroyer,
- a Los Angeles Class submarine, the USS San Francisco,
- 3 Mine Countermeasure Ships.

(By the way, speaking of Fleet Week, even though it seems like a San Francisco event, it isn’t really.  San Francisco is the host City, of course, and it benefits hugely from the influx of people who hit the City.  Fleet Week, however, is actually brought about by the efforts of the San Francisco Fleet Week Association.  If you would like to contribute money to this excellent cause, go here; volunteer time; go here.)

And of course, the Blue Angels will be flying, which is always a thrill.

If you want the E ticket ride for Fleet Week in San Francisco (or anywhere else there’s a Fleet Week), join the Navy League now!

A lovely day on the Bay

Courtesy of the Navy League, we spent several hours yesterday enjoying the hospitality of the crew of the USCG Cutter Pike, an 87′ Marine Protector Class Coastal Patrol Boat.  In other words, we spent the afternoon on an active duty patrol boat.  Rather than a chronogical recitation of a day that was basically very relaxed (although soooo cold), I’ll just give my impression of a few things:

The men and women in our Navy and Coast Guard are hardy people.  Did I mention that it’s cold out there?  Really cold.  I was bundled up, which was a good thing, because my tendency to sea sickness kept me on the deck the whole time (and this was despite having taken pills to help out).  Did I mention I was bundled up?  I was.  Heavily.  And I was still cold.  And meanwhile, members of the crew hung out on the deck in their shirt sleeves.  Only when I’d veered into freezing territory did some of them put on jackets.  I felt old and wuss-ish next to these vigorous young people.

The San Francisco Bay must be one of the most beautiful waterways in the world.  The Pike’s mandate yesterday was to keep ships and boats out of the “forbidden zone” — namely, the corridor into which ships are not allowed to travel when there are air shows going on over the Bay.  Up and down the Pike went, politely moving boats aside if they crossed that line.  I stayed on the port side of the ship.  When it went up, I admired the beautiful San Francisco skyline.  When it went down, I gazed at the wonders of Alcatraz Island.  All around us were bobbing sail boats.  There was an almost dream-like quality to the scenary around us, as if someone had written it for a book, and then summoned it into being.

People in the American military like their jobs.  Yes, I know that not all of them do, but I keep meeting people, active and retired, who think the military is a wonderful life.  In this they contrast strongly with the lawyers I meet, few of whom claim to like what they do.  (And yes, that could be a sophisticated, self-denigrating pose for some, but I happen to know from a lot of them that it’s not.)  The crew members approached their work with good cheer, an attitude that may have been boosted by the presence of a USCG RADM on board.  I got the feeling, though, that they feel as if their job is interesting and worthwhile.  I also spoke to two retired Navy people (one male, one female) and a retired Marine gal, and all three waxed lyrical about the pleasures of their time in the service.  The Navy people were career; the Marine gal was a short haul.  Each felt their time was worthwhile.

It’s disappointing when the Blues don’t fly.  Yup, you heard right.  After all that cake, we managed to miss the icing.  The fog was sufficiently think that it wasn’t safe for them to perform.  They made the right decision, of course, since safety must always come first when recreational flying is at issue, but I was still sorry to miss the soaring excitement of the show — especially when we were positioned to be right under them as they flew by.  C’est la vie.  We’ll catch them next year and, after all, this year we got to meet them face to face, which was its own pleasure.

And my last thought is that, when you get that cold, you stay cold.  It took me hours to feel as if I’d warmed up to my core again.  Did I mention that America’s seafaring troops are harding people?

What’s not to like about the Blue Angels? *UPDATED*

You know it’s been a good evening when Mom, Dad, and the kids all leave a party ebullient.  The party in question was a fund-raising reception aboard the USS Hornet, which is a floating museum.  The guests of honor were members of the Blue Angels team.  My husband was a bit dubious about the whole thing, but I bought the tickets, and bullied, and arranged, and fought my way through two hours of traffic to make it happen — and I am happy to report that I was in the pleasant position of being able to say “I told you so” as to something delightful.

Let me start with the mise en scène.  The USS Hornet, which is docked at Alameda Point (formerly the Naval Air Station Alameda), played a significant role during WWII.  The Hornet museum’s own website spells out precisely what a debt we Americans owe to the Hornet and the men who served on her.  Here are just some of the highlights:

One of twenty-four Essex class aircraft carriers, the CV-12 was named Kearsarge when her keel was laid at Newport News on August 3, 1942. After the first carrier HORNET (CV-8) was sunk at the Battle of Santa Cruz in October 1942, the Navy changed the name of CV-12 to HORNET to carry on the name of her predecessor.

By the conclusion of World War II, she had amassed an unequalled combat record.

Commissioned only 15 months after the laying of her keel, HORNET and her green crew were rushed through their shakedown cruise in only 14 days instead of the usual 4 to 5 weeks.

[snip]

In June 1944, HORNET began seven weeks of intensive air strikes in the Marianas Islands including the strategic islands of Saipan, Guam, and Tinian. During this period more than 3,000 sorties were flown from HORNET’s flight deck against Saipan. VF-2 would distinguish itself by splashing 233 Japanese aircraft. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea on June 19th, Hellcat pilots from HORNET destroyed enemy aircraft with no losses in what came to be known as the “Marianas Turkey Shoot”.

[snip]

On June 24th, while conducting raids against the Bonins Islands of Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima, VF-2 pilots downed a record 67 enemy planes in one day. HORNET participated in the Western Carolina Islands operation with air support strikes on Peleliu. By September 1944, HORNET VF-2 had the distinction of being the top fighter squadron in the Pacific with more total victories and more “ace” pilots any other fighter squadron up to that time. Out of the VF-2s 50 pilots, 28 were confirmed aces, having scored five or more victories in aerial combat.

[snip]

On the morning of February 16, 1945, HORNET kept a date the old HORNET (CV-8) had made some 34 months before when she conducted the first carrier strikes on Tokyo, neutralizing air fields and hitting shipping and targets of opportunity. Strikes began in mid-February against Chichi Jima and Iwo Jima in preparation for the Marine invasions. HORNET aircraft rocketed, bombed, and strafed positions on Iwo Jima for six straight days in direct tactical support of Marine operations there. When Iwo Jima was secure, HORNET turned her attention once again to Tokyo, pulverizing airfields in the metropolitan area.

You can read the full history here.

Standing on the Hornet means one stands on something very close to hallowed ground if one cherishes, as I do, the notion of man’s God-given right to freedom. Because of its illustrious history, when one boards the Hornet, one is already primed to be impressed. We continued to be impressed once we had the chance to meet the guests of honor.

Although the event’s organizers had put together a lovely buffet, the food paled after the Blue Angels came on board.  (Incidentally, when I use the term “Blue Angels” here, I mean representatives of the entire team, both current members and newly assigned personnel, not just the fliers.)  We had the pleasure of meeting the flight surgeon, a lovely woman who left my daughter jittering with excitement at the thought of one day achieving a high-level non-combat role in the military; the men who keep the Blues supplied; three active fliers (including both a woman and Fat Albert’s pilot), as well as the new crop of fliers; the public relations person; and the guy in charge of aircraft maintenance.

Despite the varied responsibilities of the people we met, all of the Blues have certain characteristics in common:  First, and most obviously, they’re all lovely to look at (men and women alike).  This is not quite as fatuous a comment as it sounds.  The Blue team looks lovely because its members are all in superb physical condition.  I’ve always found actors, actresses and models, no matter how rubbed and buffed they are, rather uninspiring because their physical attributes have no useful purpose beyond the decorative.  As a utilitarian person who likes functional fitness, I’m very appreciative of people who represent the apex of the human body’s physical capacity.  The Blues, every last one of them, are in top shape and it’s nice to see that.  (By the way, you can see for yourself here what a glowing, healthy bunch the officers are.)

Second, without exception, these people were gentleman and ladies in the old-fashioned sense of the term.  They were kind to the children and courteous to everyone.  They looked us in the eye, spoke clearly, and, despite the crowds around them, made every person feel as if he, or she, was important.  Considering that those of us in attendance were all crowding around the Blue Angels team like star-struck groupies, the Blues’ graciousness was especially appealing.  Again, it was easy to distinguish them from the petulant stars who populate our media.

Third, and this is something I tried to emphasize for the kids on the way home, the make-up of the Blue Angels shows that reputation matters.  Three different people told me that, when personnel apply to become a part of the Blue Angels, it’s their personality that is the determining factor.  Regardless of their responsibilities (flying, medicine, PR, supplies, etc.), all are tops in their field before they even knock on the Blues’ door.  The question for admittance, therefore, isn’t the applicant’s abilities, which are proven, but his or her personality.  Since the Blues travel together 300 days a year, they have to like and respect each other.  Someone who is known to be unpleasant, lazy, selfish, or who has any other personality trait that precludes being liked, respected and relied-upon in a tight unit, has no chance of joining the team.  To be a Blue, it’s not enough to be good at what you do.  You also have to be just plain good — a mensch, a good person, a stand-up kind of guy (or gal).

Fourth — and this is something I’ve commented upon after every interaction I’ve had with men and women in the American military — the Blues manifestly love their work.  Each person with whom we spoke felt that his (or her) job has meaning and purpose.  It’s so obvious that none are just grinding through their days, putting in time and waiting for the pay check.  Everyone was passionate about his (or her) responsibilities, and about the Blues’ important role as a good will ambassador for the Navy.  It was so apparent that the Blues are people who get up in the morning feeling as if their work matters.  As in years past, I felt real envy that these people, when still young, were able to look at their skills and their values and then make a career choice that not only gives them great pleasure, but that serves their country.

And really, what more can one say?  I learned some useful practice stuff (the Blues rely primarily on their carefully honed senses, not on equipment, when they perform; every team member, regardless of his, or her, primary responsibilities, has a role when the planes take to the air; Blues fly in formation across country as they go from one venue to another; etc.), but mostly I was reminded, again, that our military attracts and cultivates the best and the brightest.

photo (5)

UPDATE: I was remiss when I failed to point out that this event was co-sponsored by the Bay Area TAILHOOK Ready Room. It was a lovely evening, and thanks are due to all who made it possible.

Getting close to some alpha warriors

My family is going to a reception tonight at which we’ll get to meet the Blue Angel fliers.  (Although this is not an event affiliated with the Navy League, I learned about it through friends in the Navy League, so the NL still gets the nod.)  As the reception has drawn near, I’ve learned something interesting:  women and kids are thrilled to hear that we’re going, and are envious; men . . . well, less so.  I’d come to the conclusion that, perhaps, the desk jockeys in my world might find it intimidating to meet real alpha warriors.  When I broached Don Quixote, he was quite honest about it, saying that, were he to meet one of the fliers, he would worry that the pilot was looking down on him precisely because he is an office worker, and not a warrior.

I’d love to hear your opinions on this.

Blue Angels

A good time was had by all *UPDATED*

I did something great today — I relaxed.  Okay, that’s not really all I did.  I relaxed in a very special place.  Along with my family, I spent time aboard the USCGC George Cobb (WLM 564), a Coast Guard Buoy Tender, which usually calls San Pedro, California its home.  Fortunately for us, it came up to the San Francisco Bay Area for Fleet Week.  As members of the Navy League, we got invited to spend the day aboard the Cobb so that we could watch the Blue Angels show.

From start to finish, the experience was delightful.  The Coast Guard made sure parking and check-in were easy, with delicious pre-packed lunches available for purchase too.  Once on board the Cobb, we were invited to explore the whole ship, barring sleeping quarters and the engineering room.  Inside or outside, we went everywhere and looked at everything.  The crew was consistently friendly and helpful, and it was a pleasure to see this immaculate ship.

My family and I ended up spending a lot of time in the bridge.  Not only was it comfortable (no cold wind blowing there), with good visuals (a 180 view of the surrouding bay), but it was also fascinating.  The bridge’s crew showed us all the equipment and let us hang out in their chairs to boot.  Although I got a little queasy and ended up back on the deck, my son refused to leave, and the crew cheerfully assured me that they would keep an eye on him — and they did.

Watching the Blue Angels from the Bay is an amazing experience.  We were “parked” (I forget the official sea term) near Alcatraz, and it’s pretty clear that the Angels use Alcatraz as one of their markers.  They therefore flew so near us that you could practically see the pilot’s faces.  As always, it was a spectacular and completely enjoyable air show.  It’s so obvious that the pilots love what they do.  There is a joie de vivre to the performance that just sweeps one along.  As for the precision, if I didn’t know there were real people in the cock pits, I swear I’d think they were computer programmed — it’s that good.

At the end of the day, I asked my son to rate the experience on a 1 through 10 scale (with ten being the best).  He gave the day an 8 3/4, since it would have been perfect only if there had been guns and the guns had been fired!  I’m not sure about the gun bit but otherwise I have to agree with my son, since the day was about as good as it can get.

UPDATE:  There’s one other thing I wanted to add, and although it’s a silly thing, it seems important.  After we returned frpm the ship, we pulled into our local market to get some supplies.  As I know I’ve mentioned before, I live in a very nice community.  Nevertheless, the young people, who are only a few years younger than many of the Cobb’s crew, hew to the latest fashions.  We were therefore met with the sight of several shaggy haired kids in collapsing baggy pants, or overly tight peg legs, with the young men sporting rather random facial hair.  That reminded me of something else I liked about the ship:  the crew looked so . . . clean.  The buzz cuts on the men, the neat pony tails on the women, the simple blue uniform:  it all added up to a fresh, polished look that I greatly admired.