Friday, March 05, 2010

The Rise and Fall of a Female Captain Bligh

Women are so common in the upper ranks of the U.S. military these days that it's no longer news when they break through another barrier. Unfortunately, the latest benchmark isn't one to brag about: being booted as captain of a billion-dollar warship for "cruelty and maltreatment" of her 400-member crew. According to the Navy inspector general's report that triggered her removal — and the accounts of officers who served with her — Captain Holly Graf was the closest thing the U.S. Navy had to a female Captain Bligh.

A Navy admiral stripped Graf of her command of the Japan-based guided missile cruiser U.S.S. Cowpens in January. The just-released IG report concludes that Graf "repeatedly verbally abused her crew and committed assault" and accuses her of using her position as commander of the Cowpens "for personal gain." But old Navy hands tell TIME that those charges, substantiated in the IG report, came about because of the poisonous atmosphere she created aboard her ship.
Read the rest here.

As a former sailor I am appalled that any officer could behave so unprofessionally and get promoted to her rank (the naval equal to a full bird colonel in the other branches). I was very fortunate in my time in the Navy. With one exception my assigned duty stations were generally well run with at least tolerably good morale. In a few cases moral was outstanding. Only on one ship did we have a petty tyrant for a skipper. Commander Oliver Hazzard Perry III (a direct descendant of the War of 1812 hero) was the CO of the USS Mahlon S Tisdale FFG 27. While not in the same league as Capt. Graf; he was highly abusive with a notoriously short fuse. It did not help that the ship was assigned to the Naval Reserve Fleet and was thus chronically undermanned. Life on that ship was highly unpleasant. I can not even imagine working for someone like Capt. Graf.

It would be interesting to see what the retention rate was on her ship, as also the records for how many of her crew took "weather leave." (A naval phrase for going over the hill or "I am leaving whether you like it or not.")


誰說的幸福唷 said...
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The young fogey said...

This reminds me of Neil Sheehan's The Arnheiter Affair, a true story from the Vietnam War. I wonder if it's so much a case of affirmative action (the tragedy of Kara Hultgreen) - Brian Mitchell convinced me the old way was better: what on earth is a woman doing in a war zone? - but one of those times when the system fails and somebody who had no business leading men into war was given that power. Glad the Navy did the right thing before anybody was seriously hurt or killed.