LOS ANGELES A former commander of the U.S. Navy's elite Blue Angels squadron has resigned as head of the fraternal Tailhook Association after coming under investigation over complaints that he enabled inappropriate workplace behavior within the precision flight team.
Captain Gregory McWherter, who was removed April 18 from his post as executive officer at the U.S. Naval Base Coronado in Southern California, stepped down on Friday as president of the private, nonprofit organization, which is made up of active-duty and retired military sea-based aviators.
McWherter said in an email message tendering his resignation that he was concerned the investigation would be a distraction and diminish his ability to serve as president, said retired Navy Captain J.R. Davis, Tailhook's executive director.
The association has since reinstated its immediate past president, Captain Sterling Gilliam, to replace McWherter, who had assumed the title in September, Davis said on Monday.
The San Diego-based fraternal organization is named after the hook attached to the tails of warplanes that grabs the arresting wire on the flight decks of aircraft carriers designed to bring landing jets to a swift halt.
Dozens of Navy and Marine Corps aviators were accused of sexual harassment and assault at the group's 1991 convention in Las Vegas in a scandal that derailed the careers of numerous officers and led the Navy to cut official ties to the organization for about nine years.
The case involving McWherter marked the latest investigation into the military's handling of sexually inappropriate behavior within its ranks as the Pentagon seeks to address a string of workplace misconduct allegations that have tarnished its image.
Citing a Navy inspector general's investigation, the official Navy News Service reported last week that McWherter was found to have "tolerated an inappropriate work environment" in the Blue Angels while serving as its commanding officer, a job he last held in 2012.
The inquiry stemmed from a complaint alleging that "lewd speech, inappropriate comments and sexually explicit humor were allowed in the workplace and in some cases encouraged by the commanding officer," the Navy said. The complaint also said there had been pornographic images displayed or shared.
Davis said McWherter served two stints, between 2008 and 2012, as commanding officer of the Blue Angels, the Navy flight exhibition team famed for its tight formations and aerobatics, but it was not clear when the allegations involving him originated.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)