There is a rather stunning article in today’s Navy Times regarding the relief of USS Cowpens (CG-63) CO, CAPT Holly Graf.

I wonder if this occasion will be the celebrated milestone trumpeted by a December 2008 post here.

Regardless, there is one paragraph in the NT article which should do much more than raise eyebrows. It should drive an investigation from SECNAV level or higher:

Her continuing into a job to which she had already been assigned is unusual for a Navy captain who has been relieved; many fired COs are assigned to the staff of their parent command and their careers effectively ended.

The obvious question is whether a male counterpart would have had the benefit of such “unusual” consideration. Methinks the COs of Port Royal, Greenville, Hartford, et. al., would be inclined to think not.

It seems, Admiral Roughead, to quote a famous band leader, “You got some ‘splainin’ to do!”


UPDATE (20090304) on relief of CAPT Holly Graf:

The Inspector General’s Report Part 1 and Part 2. (h/t to Lex)

Apparently CAPT Graf is no longer headed to her follow-on duty station. Interesting TIME Magazine article.

Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Navy

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  • Unusual …. but I wish for the crew of the COWPENS and her new CO that they have a top-shelf CMDCM and XO to help them mend the ship and move forward.

    “Cruelty and maltreatment” and got fired for it, eh?

    Well, with the Navy’s track record – you may be looking at Congress(wo)man Graf any day now!

  • Spade

    I’m just curious as to what you have to do to get a “curelty and maltreatment” charge as opposed to the standard “poor command environment” and whatnot.
    Sestak got fired for it, but he didn’t get charged or anything.

  • Chap

    Cross-commented from NepLex, where he too focused on the Navy Times’ choice of wording. I disagree with the reporter’s characterization.

    Doesn’t seem like “an unusual move” to me. I did a tour in DC once and noticed I knew a few people in the Palace hallway who had been underway a few weeks or months before and who showed up in the news. Being such a huge manpower sump, DC could be seen by some detailer in a hurry as a good option to put someone who got fired out of the situation with a minimum of humiliation. (Perhaps relevant: the 1110s are way short of O6s apparently and are doing some weird things to fill the billets.) Alternately, perhaps orders were already cut and moving the projected rotation date up was the best choice.

    I could translate the sentence about continuing career in DC as “officer was relieved early, detachment characterization determination in progress, and is assigned to a staff long enough to transition to retirement”.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    We shall see if Lex’s assertions ring true.

    But I would still have a hard time believing that the same HQ and billet would be available for an 0-6 relieved for cause as would be open to an 0-6 following a second successful command tour at sea, and by all other accounts, well on her way to Flag Rank.

  • There’s a comment here:

    It implies that she laid hands on a subordinate. That’s why she got Mast, instead of just relieved.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Interesting. She is lucky she didn’t get the side of her head caved in, which is what she deserved. As soon as a leader does that, the rank insignia go over the side. As she did.

  • I’ve had, um… “emphatic” discussions with officers before, in the field (and usually, hidden in the turret, away from the children) and there was no lasting fallout from it. And I’ve seen a 2LT almost come to blows with a CPT (I dragged my 2LT away by force). But a CAPT laying hands on someone? That might be a bit much.

  • As to why the CAPT was allowed to proceed to her next duty station, it’s unusual compared to other reliefs, but most other skippers don’t have their relief on board, and a PCS orders in hand. Further, stashing her would mean NavyStaff would have to find a replacement for her immediately. Now, they have a little time before someone else gets stuck with a set of orders they may or may not crave.

  • Grandpa Bluewater


    I assume you are speaking metaphorically; sad to say, in the world in which we live, others may not. Recommend you make it crystal, just a little advice from one who considers himself your friend.

    It would seem the Captain has a history, from the comments at “I Like the Cut of His Jib”.

    Bad Captains happen. An ISIC’s unhappy duty is to kill or cure them. At four stripes, remediation is hard to obtain, justifiably, IMHO. If needs must, it ’tis best done early in the tour and quickly, lest more troops suffer, not to mention the Navy’s good name, such as it is in these difficult times.

    This case seems to have come late, but some things inevitably trigger the landslide.

    Curiouser and Curiouser.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Abdicating rank by manhandling someone when not either a) moving them into harms’ way when they won’t go themselves, or b) moving them out of it when they can’t for themselves, leads to consequences.

    Unless that vessel was under fire and the junior officer’s actions were endangering him/herself or others, there is no excuse. None.

    So let me be crystal clear: People who behave as if they can kick everyone’s a** will sooner or later be obliged to do so. That includes officers of all ranks. Part of the problem at times with officers is they have been insulated from such axioms for so long they tend to forget it. Assault someone, expect to be assaulted back. Life is like that. The failure to remember such details is a failure of the most basic of leadership. Lance Corporals know it before they’re 19. How come she didn’t?

    Would she try such a stunt on a couple of the fine Navy Officers who served as IAs with me overseas, she would have been fitted for new uppers and lowers. And deserved it.

  • Kirk

    I knew Graf at the Academy and served with her when she was XO. The events stated in NT were no surprise to me. My question is, “What took so long?” She was mean and sadistic. She did not care about the crew and she held grudges. Life was a living Hell. She made sure of it. I could tell stories for hours. She needs to leave the Navy and fade away.

  • Kirk,
    Sounds like a great Admiral’s Call question buried in your comment. The CNO is on the road doing them all the time, as are many others. Throw it out there.

    If you or someone else has first hand knowledge of her behavior and/or it was commonly known – then ask the question.

    If it is as you describe it -and we know all about Command Climate issues – then the question is (especially for Major Command at Sea) – what did the community senior leadership know, and when did they know it?

    Then again, in your back pocket be prepared to answer why if you knew you kept quiet … if you did. If you didn’t, then be prepared to say who you let know so they can be asked.

  • John

    As one who witnessed my best friend go through her CDR CMD ride, I ask the same question Kirk did. What took so long? Her time was marked by absolute misery by all hands, and a major engineering casualty I had hoped would lead to her dismissal but sadly didn’t. She has a long history of getting a pass that would kill most anyone else, I can’t imagine why.

  • Looks like Kirk has shed some light on a Diversity Quota…and how, most likely, no one wanted to be the one to blow the whistle.

    Well, at least in this case, it’s only wounded reputations, but the mindset ingrained for too long now, shall continue to allow a few too many make it too high, or to leadership at all.

  • Oh, and if anyone thinks that imperfections in Command selections are a new thing – perhaps you should get a copy of The Arnheiter Affair.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Imperfections in command selections exist everywhere. But the at times blatant ignoring of substandard performance or results because of race, ethnic origin, or indoor plumbing is something else again.

  • James

    URR: I think you’re leaping to a conclusion. There have been other officers relieved for misconduct and command failures over the last few years but I don’t think you would claim the Hartford incident, for example, was the result of blatant sexism, even though Navy policy on the manning of submarines has been *explicitly* sexist.

    CDR S has the right of it: no one really knows, at this point, what the higher-ups knew about it and none of the former subordinates trashing her after the fact will acknowledge they did anything to make their superiors aware of her failings back when it would have mattered. It’s entirely possible that admirals were looking the other way in order to have a female success story but, given the apparent seriousness of the charges, I find it hard to believe that any admiral who was aware of the problem would not see a time bomb waiting to go off at the worst possible moment.

    There are plenty of female officers to choose from and, when and IF affirmative action rears its ugly head, the pass is usually given to someone who is incompetent but thankfully inoffensive. Not loose cannons who might really embarrass you down the road.

    An interesting line of inquiry would be: how do junior officers and senior enlisted men warn the admiral about a captain whom they consider substandard or even dangerous? How would the admiral go about confirming the accusation? This is a tricky issue; I think that blaming affirmative action off the cuff evades serious analysis.


    Without knowing any of the details, there are a couple of things about the charges that argue more for an extremely bad command climate and failures of leadership and not for something like hitting someone.
    ART 133 is basically a piling on offense, the elements of the offense, (see MCM 2008) are as follows:
    b. Elements.
    (1) That the accused did or omitted to do certain acts; and
    (2) That, under the circumstances, these acts or omissions constituted conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.

    As an example, the MCM lists
    “using insulting or defamatory language to another officer in that officer’s presence or about that officer to other military persons”

    You can include ART 133 to virtually any other offense, and should, especially if it is the Commanding Officer.

    ART93 on the other hand is more prescriptive.
    a. Text of statute.
    Any person subject to this chapter who is guilty of cruelty toward, or oppression or maltreatment of, any person subject to his orders shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
    b. Elements.
    (1) That a certain person was subject to the orders of the accused; and
    (2) That the accused was cruel toward, or oppressed, or maltreated that person.

    The MCM further explains:
    ( 2 ) Nature of act. The cruelty, oppression, or maltreatment, although not necessarily physical, must be measured by an objective standard. Assault, improper punishment, and sexual harassment may constitute this offense…

    OK, enough legal double speak. Note that ART93 is about abuse of your position. You would expect that if the IG had found cases of assault, there would have been ART128 Assault (simple assault or assault consumated with battery) charges as well. If the ART93 derived from an assault or series of assaults, they would be separate charges. Since there wasn’t, one would assume that this was a case of really toxic command climate and other failures of leadership.

    Of course all of this doesn’t explain why they would send that officer to a post major command job. It may be that other actions are in progress, for instance there is an ORDMOD in the works but she is going back to DC anyway so she can execute the orders in hand so that there is funding and then get the ORDMOD later. However, it needs to be clarified by someone in authority and sooner rather than later.

  • James,
    Just to nit-pic a bit on a point missed quite often. You stated:
    “There are plenty of female officers to choose from and, when and IF affirmative action rears its ugly head, the pass is usually given to someone who is incompetent but thankfully inoffensive. Not loose cannons who might really embarrass you down the road.”

    Very true. I do not know if this was the case here – odds are it was not. However, as a point of order, let me remind all of this.

    In a zero sum game that is Command Selection, when you give something to one, you take away from another. If you give to some with lower indications for success in order to gain a superficiality, then you get that result – lower performance in command for a greater presence in the superficiality you are selecting for.

    With a lower indications of success – you play the odds that something can go wrong. Doesn’t mean it will, but is skews the odds. When things go wrong in Command, people can get killed, ships can be run aground and careers can be destroyed. When you gain a popular superficiality, Senior Leadership gets to make friends with the right people and have nice photographs to show the right people so they get invited to the right parties and exciting speaking engagements.

    Pick your priorities, and reap the results – when you wake up in the morning though, just make sure they guy looking back in the mirror understands the reasons for the decision you make.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “URR: I think you’re leaping to a conclusion.”

    I would offer that such a conclusion, of reached, hardly requires leaping. Granted, IF the stories of the misery and engineering failure are true aboard WSC, And those of the allegations as CO of Cowpens are also true. But it seems they both might be.

    One has to ask, if a male counterpart had the track record of Graf’s performance as CO of Churchill, would he have gotten relieved? Some who served with her there think so. Even if not relieved, would that male counterpart have gotten another command at sea? Would that male counterpart, if relieved under these circumstances, have still gotten the orders for which he was originally intended?

    If any of those answers are different between a male officer of similar track record and Captain Graf, then it is not a conclusion that is leapt to. On the contrary, it is one that is of a character which the US Navy of late has taken great pains to conceal.

  • James

    But you are leaving out a key element: what is the “track record?” Did the ships score badly in performance reviews? Was there an incident (a grounding, a desertion, an injury) that required an inquiry? Or were there a lot of grumbling sailors that never made their complaints known (or had no means to do so)?

    The conclusion you reach requires that the admirals knew that she was a poor officer but did nothing about it. Since action has now been taken it seems clear that they are, in fact, willing to relieve a female officer for incompetence and dreadful leadership skills. So…if they are willing to fire a bad female officer, which evidence is in plain sight, why now and not earlier? More to the point: here they are wrecking the career and reputation of an allegedly coveted and protected female officer AFTER she has done all the damage she can do. Her tour was over; a new commander was already on board; she was on the track to become an admiral. But, at the very last minute, they decided to hang a charge on her. That’s the damndest favoritism I ever heard of.

    A more logical conclusion, and one that concerns me even more, is that it remains possible for a Captain Queeg to rise to the rank of captain, to command two large ships in the Navy, without anyone in the chain of command ever knowing what the environment is like aboard her ship. That they really didn’t find out until her relief got on board and started getting to know the sailors she been harassing for the previous two years. That admirals are so far removed from the day-to-day that they never hear the rumors of a mad captain, or don’t have the energy or the means to investigate without tarnishing the careers of the innocent.

    We are both arguing that there was/is a systemic command failure, I think. Your argument is that of favoritism while mine is that her superiors were clueless. I think what we know right now, and it’s worth repeating that we really don’t know a hell of a lot, indicates the admirals were caught by surprise.

  • Hard to say what and why it happened until we know the facts. There have been some memorable cases of maltreatment of sailors at mast — the demise of the old Correctional Custody progam was the result of a fatal incident on board a CV in AirPac. There are specific offenses for mistreatment of prisioner and assault. The charges are interestingly vague. We are no longer a forgiving Navy. There is a major difference between an isolated incident without intent and a pattern of misconduct. Even when you assume command you must remember that if you are not making mistakes you are not learning. Command is not a popularity contest but it also is not a license to be an unpleasant, self-important diety.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “That’s the damnedest favoritism I ever heard of.”

    The damnedest I ever heard of was a female F-14 pilot who made it through flight school despite a number of “downing gripes”, each one of which would have washed any male candidate. I served with two of her flight instructors, who told me the day after her crash that they were told she was to graduate. One of the gripes in her training was freezing at the controls during an arrested landing.

    Newly in the fleet, this woman botched a carrier landing, froze at the controls, and went in the drink inverted. Took her backseater with her. Two dead aircrew and a $45 million aircraft lost.

    So, don’t pretend as if these things don’t happen and there is no way Holly Graf was chosen and groomed because she was female. That is nonsense.

  • Grandpa Bluewater


    Indeed. I just didn’t want you accused of advocating murdering bad CO’s with a blunt instrument.

    You do have a way with words once the fire moves up from banked in your belly to blazing in your eyes.

    More to the point, better to break contact, evade, stalk, and torpedo with a MK 1 JAG. Keeps the rope of one’s own neck. Not the first time for that, either.


  • UltimaRatioReg


    “More to the point, better to break contact, evade, stalk, and torpedo with a MK 1 JAG. Keeps the rope of one’s own neck. Not the first time for that, either.”

    Probably true, but I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for someone who didn’t at least forcibly and painfully remove said Captain’s hand from their person….. gotta have some fight in you, regardless of rank.

    I thought that fire in my belly was pepperoni pizza….

  • An interesting line of inquiry would be: how do junior officers and senior enlisted men warn the admiral about a captain whom they consider substandard or even dangerous? How would the admiral go about confirming the accusation? This is a tricky issue; I think that blaming affirmative action off the cuff evades serious analysis.

    Affirmative action aside, this is what we pay Admirals the big bucks for- to KNOW when the climate aboard a ship is toxic.

    Is there a sudden increase in the number of people putting in for transfer or leaving the service? Is there an increase in NJP for UA, alcohol related incidents, fighting, etc.? When the Admiral or the squadron staff visit, is the crew helpful and enthusiastic or are they reticent, unwilling to offer an opinion, and only willing to answer the bare minimum? What do the JOs of the other ships of the squadron hear?

    Any officer that can rise to CAPT or flag rank and can’t quickly and accurately determine the morale aboard a subordinate’s ship isn’t much of a leader. Heck, a good SGT in the Army knows in about 5 minutes whether his new company is good to go, or stuffed in the hurt locker.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Brad speaks veritas, especially for an Army Infantry guy. Precisely the point, James. I cannot for a second believe that such a command climate was not noted. What was or was not done about it, and why, is the question. And it is fair to ask. Either two separate commands were oblivious to some pretty unhealthy situations, or Graf was issued the bullet-proof vest.

  • James

    I never said “no way.” It is entirely fair to ask. It is entirely *unfair* however to draw conclusions before asking, especially since the assumption of favoritism indirectly questions the competence of every other female officer in the Navy. And with all due respect to Brad, a sergeant has a much better view of a company than a general does. Certainly there might be subtle tells of a distressed ship’s company but it is not implausible that in a technology-obsessed Navy the admirals are more interested in paper reports than the JO rumor-mill. I can believe that very easily.

    Getting some facts together before going off on a literal witch-hunt for female commanders is not an outrageous expectation. Plenty of male officers have been relieved over the last few years and many of the assertions leaking out in those cases have been just as jaw-dropping as in this one. The Navy has a lot to explain but the answers may not be what you want or expect.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    James, you made my argument for me.

    “the assumption of favoritism indirectly questions the competence of every other female officer in the Navy”. True enough. Precisely Salamander’s (and many others’) issue with “diversity” which is, in essence affirmative action. Substitute any race or ethnic category in your sentence.

    Nobody is going on a witch hunt for female commanders in any way, shape, or form. And I disagree with your assertions regarding Brad’s comments. While a Sgt may have more insight into a company, a General can and should have the insight into a regiments (commanded by an 0-6 level officer). If he doesn’t, he shouldn’t be a General. Or Admiral, in the case of the USN.

    So, why did she command twice? Why was this allowed to go on so long? If she were male, would it have been tolerated?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    *Burma Shave*

    “a regiments” should read “a regiment”. Mixing up my singular and plurals….

  • And with all due respect to Brad, a sergeant has a much better view of a company than a general does.

    I certainly took no offense. But URR anticipated my response. I don’t expect an Admiral to know the mood in a division or department. But he alone is accountable for his subordinate commanders. And he alone is responsible for knowing what is going on with them.

    Was CAPT Graf the recipient of a “diversity” bump? Probably. But I’ll let URR make that line of argument. My own view is that the Navy (and to some extent, the other services) have spent far to much effort teaching management, and not enough leadership.

    Certainly there might be subtle tells of a distressed ship’s company but it is not implausible that in a technology-obsessed Navy the admirals are more interested in paper reports than the JO rumor-mill. I can believe that very easily.

    I can believe it as well. But I can’t excuse it.

  • Cowpens Sailor

    I am a sailor on the Cowpens, and have been for 2+ years (before Capt. Graf came aboard). As an E-6 (and an engineer to boot), let me tell you – the few times that I personally dealt with her were extremely unpleasant. She is extremely brash, demeaning, condescending, crude, crass, and very profane. Let me give one example that I personally witnessed (and think about the JO’s & DH’s that are around her all the time, and what they must have gone through!): The ship was at GQ, for a TSSE (mass-conflag) drill. I am a member of a training team, and I was standing by to impose a casualty near her stateroom (just below the pilothouse). Material condition zebra was properly set and the hatches were dogged down. As I was standing by, she came up the ladder, opened the hatch, and proceeded to scream and belittle me for allowing zebra to be set (during a drill) when she had to refill her coffee cup in her stateroom. One of the ATG inspectors (an officer) was nearby and attempted to calm her down and explain that if the hatch wasn’t set, the zebra checks would be deemed ‘not effective.’ She then yelled up the ladder to the pilothouse to the JOOD, getting no response, she then threw her coffee mug (not a paper cup, mind you, a ceramic mug) at the officer, and ordered him to DC central to log the hatch near her stateroom open. Then, in front of several junior enlisted, cursed a storm and began throwing other things from inside her stateroom and into the passageway.

    In response to the questions brought up above about how long the upper chain of command knew about this; it was more than 7 months, as I personally have knowledge of an email that went to the Navy Inspector General 7 months ago.

    Anyway, there are many rumors which also make me wonder why Article 128 was not included in the charges. But I’ll leave this post to just the facts that I know for sure.

    It was far far beyond a poor command climate.

  • Interesting
  • COW Leader

    I feel obligated to say something. For the very few bloggers who have anything positive to say about her, you obviously never served under her. Leaders at every level of the command feel pressure and to use that as an excuse for her actions is cowardly. As a Leader on COWPENS, I can tell you she thrived on keeping people in fear. You could always feel the tension when she walked into a room and feel it go away when she left. Her leadership style cannot be described because she has no idea how to lead or motivate. COWPENS achievements over her tour had absolutely nothing to do with her. It is a testament to the leadership of the Wardroom, Chief’s mess and character of the crew that was still able to function and perform despite having this anchor around their necks. I can count on one hand how many times she ate in the wardroom and visited the Chief’s mess. She was completely incompetent at every level. She was a disaster on bridge, she knew nothing about Engineering, Combat Systems or Weapons. She is a hateful person who only focused on the negative. To her credit, she was an equal opportunity bully when it came to terrifying her crew. She did it to everyone from E-1 to 05. She also did not care of what country you were from. She was a diplomatic disaster during COWPENS port visit to Australia last year where she completely disrespected a senior Australian officer. For her actions, she was ordered to personally hand write a letter of apology. What irritates me the most is she has been this way forever, how did such a completely incompetent person ever get ranked so high and was allowed not one but two commands at sea?????

  • Anonymous

    I’ve seen a few different blogs on this topic, with probably over 100 total comments, including 20 or so who claim to have served under Capt Graf. Every single one (except for Graf’s BFF Lori near the top of this page) confirms a picture of Graf as self-centered, incompetent, bullying, verbally and physically abusive, and utterly unconcerned about the welfare of her ship or of her crew, except insofar as they might facilitate her next promotion.

    Too bad the Navy couldn’t publicly strip Graf of her commission and retire her as, say, an E-2. It would be a nice gesture of apology to the thousands of sailors she has mistreated, screwed over, forced out, or otherwise damaged in her 25 years of service.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that the IG results tied the ISIC’s hands and he was left with no choice but to fire her. CTF 70 was well aware of her antics long before the IG results came out. There was the first command climate survey in Nov 2008 where over 80 percent of the comments had something negative to say about her. Then the incident in Australia where the Chief of Staff came aboard and conducted interviews. I truly believe that he would have done nothing if not for the IG results. But even with that, they tried to cover up her mast conviction. The ADM came onboard the ship to announce that he decided to replace her, but he said it was because of upcoming inspections. He made no mention of her mast, he even went so far as to thank her over the 1MC for the outstanding job she had did! Can you believe that??? How can you take someone to mast and find then guilty of cruelty to there crew and then have the nerve to bring her back to the ship and publicly thank her for doing a great job!!!!!!

  • Al

    You folks are surmising what the cause was without a shred of evidence to its accuracy. Assault and /or battery is a different article under the UCMJ. She was found guilty of cruel and maltreatment and conduct unbecoming an officer. That characterization implies a more serious condition that she may have been playing mind games, cruelly using her position to either control people or to purposely stress them out until she either broke their will or mental health or caused them to go AWOL to get away from the situation. I think in time, sailors will start to reveal exactly what went while she was CO.

  • Al

    The conduct of Graf is nothing new in the Surface Warfare Officer community. The old axiom of “eating their young” is what breads poor officer like Graf. Back in the 80’s, SURFLANT”s Vice Admiral Macaulay, routinely made unannounced visit to ships inport publicly chastising and humiliating CO’s, XO’s, CMC’s and even Signalmen (if they didn’t have the correct flags hoisted usually his flag wasn’t broken during the visit as it would normally be after liberty call and a Signalmen wasn’t on duty). Many a fine Naval Officer was fired on the spot. Chief Engineer’s on 1200 psi DDG’s were routinely fired after a dismal material readiness report was submitted by MTT (usually a Squadron Chief reporting on a LCDR) or a ship failed an OPPE. Engineer’s cringed when Squadron folks or MTT showed up to “help” as they knew it was only a matter of hours before the Admiral would be making a visit because of oil in the bilges. Graf was bread from that mindset where cruelty to control people was exercised instead of good leadership by example. Conversely, the CO’s on Sub and Carriers are often lionized by their crews. These skippers know that the path to success is a well cared for crew that works hard and plays hard. On most surface ships even in today’s Navy there is plenty of hard work but very little satisfaction, reward our play. Captain Graf should have been given a choice to resign for the good of the service (not retire) or given a General Court Martial. Another failure of leadership by the CNO and senior Navy leadership in allowing the farce of an Admiral’s Mast to play out as “accountability” for a cruel officer that has reportedly destroyed many fine officers, Chiefs and enlisted personnel careers because the Navy allows this type of abuse to masquerader as “leadership

  • James

    I think you’re seeing a pattern involving this incident and that of Lt Hultgreen fifteen years ago. I’m seeing a pattern with the Hartford and the Port Royal, both ships that had serious marine incidents whose investigation led to assertions of a poor command environment of which the admirals were apparently unaware until hundreds of news cameras were trained on them.

    Assuming off the starting line that this was a case of favoritism gone wrong requires that we ignore other recent incidents of command failure; it also requires that we ignore the fact that Graf’s vest was not, in the end, bulletproof. Her career is bleeding out right in front of us even though she didn’t crash her cruiser onto the rocks and attract international media attention. The problems were, in the end, uncovered by the Navy itself and are being dealt with in the Navy way.

    Why did it take so long? On this point Brad and I seem to agree. I am concerned that the admirals are out of touch with what’s happening on board the ships. The flagship might only be a few miles away but that can be the far side of the moon. The general lives a great deal closer to the men on the base; the admiral must make an extra effort. I am very skeptical of the blanket assertion that every time a woman screws up it is a result of “diversity gone wrong.” There are a million ways to screw up in the Navy and women aren’t the only ones doing it.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    “She was found guilty of cruel and maltreatment and conduct unbecoming an officer.”

    No, she was not. NJP is a non-judicial proceeding that does not determine guilt or innocence. It is an administrative process.

    And James, to your assertions that Captain Graf was not given special consideration because she was of a group that can adversely affect other careers with mere insinuation, I will ask again. Would a male CO have conduct of this type tolerated at not one, but TWO sea commands? Nothing in the investigation of Hartford or Greenville or San Antonio or Port Royal revealed anything like THIS stuff.

    There are a million ways to screw up, and it isn’t just women doing it. But this is not a screw-up. It is a pattern of behavior and poor leadership that has been tolerated (and excused) for a very long time.

    Were she a male, the suspicion is that such poor leadership and despicable conduct would never have been tolerated.

    Were Lt Hultgreen male, the suspicion is such shortcomings would not be tolerated.

    Were Major Hasan not Muslim, the suspicion is that such anti-American declarations and seditious behavior would never have been tolerated.

  • John Bonds

    I think Ultimate Ratio is wrong. I believe he has it confused with an Article 32 investigation, which is a bit like a Grand Jury proceeding, to determine if there is sufficient evidence to warrant an indictment and a court martial. Article 15 (NJP)is an alternative to courts-martial. Under NJP a commanding officer may determine guilt or innocence and assess punishment accordingly without reference to higher authority. The Manual for CourtsMartial outlines all this clearly in Part V. ( p429 following.) An accused must agree to submit to NJP (that is s/he may demand Court Martial anytime before punishment has been ordered). NJP is intended for minor offenses, and cannot be increased after the proceeding, even if appealed. That’s why most people will take NJP if offered, if they are guilty. Even a flag officer is quite restricted in punishments to a commissioned officer beyond a letter of admonition or reprimand as follows:
    (A) By any commanding officer—restriction to
    specified limits, with or without suspension from
    duty for not more than 30 consecutive days;
    (B) If imposed by an officer exercising general
    court-martial jurisdiction, an officer of general or
    flag rank in command, or a principal assistant as
    defined in paragraph 2c of this Part—
    (i) arrest in quarters for not more than 30
    consecutive days;
    (ii) forfeiture of not more than one-half of
    one month’s pay per month for 2 months;
    (iii) restriction to specified limits, with or
    without suspension from duty, for not more than 60
    consecutive days.
    So, in general, if you’re guilty of a serious offense, you can avoid the possibility of loss of rank, of seniority, or dismissal by taking NJP instead of a Court Martial. By the same token, if you’re not guilty, you get a lot more rights in a Court Martial, and a jury trial of your peers.
    Practically speaking, NJP takes care of a minor problem, delivers a slap and moves on. The punishment for an officer seems minor–but even a non-judicial Letter of Admonition is enough to derail an officer’s career. A non-judicial Letter of Reprimand usually means no more promotions or choice assignments–ever. So, it’s pretty severe. But it is NOT dismissal from the service or reduction in seniority. That requires a Court Martial.
    I think I can assure you that the decision to resort to NJP was not made solely by the local flag officer. This thing had to have been kicked up the line all the way to CNO and SecNav. Avoiding a show trial with all that entails was probably one of the primary elements in the decision. CAPT Graf’s career is effectively over. As noted here, the real tragedy is that her crews paid a fearful price for her tenure in command–and her superiors didn’t act to end it earlier. It is the same failure that the Army must recognize in passing the shrink along to another command rather than investigating properly. Often, the person reporting is subjected to greater scrutiny by his/her superiors than the object of the report, because it’s embarrassing to the institution. So no one reports what is painfully obvious, lest the messenger be killed.

  • formerWSCsailor

    Having served under her on WSC, I can speak first hand on her poor command climate. Publicly berating JO’s and CPO’s in front of blueshirts (not once or twice, REGULARLY), demeaning blueshirts, carrying out mean spirited vendettas because she didn’t like someone, going out of her way to treat the crew like garbage daily. It can go for hours. As to who knew, I can say that her superiors as far back as her O5 command tour were well aware of the environment and her actions. I can imagine that her bosses while on Cowpens knew as well. Consider this…..first AEGIS female CO, first female CO to launch a counter strike against another country, father is a retired Captain, sister now a Rear Admiral. The PR writes itself, in a few years the Navy Times article probably would have read “First Sister Admirals.” Just something to think about, but in the end who can say why her way was paved up to O6….sadly it was paved with the spirits and careers of alot of good Sailors.

  • James

    And I will answer again: he would have been tolerated if his superiors were clueless about what was going on. I mention recent events because they support my thesis that the admirals didn’t seem to know much about the problems on board the ships; it follows that they were unaware of just how bad things were on the Cowpens or, for that matter, her previous command. You maintain as an article of faith that her superiors MUST have known and simply REFUSED to do anything. I continue to argue that there is no *must.* The few miles of water separates the flagship from the destroyer can be a very long distance for an admiral who allows himself to be distracted by material issues to the detriment of the human factor.

    The despicable conduct you mention remains mostly rumor. She was apparently a CO that screamed at her subordinates a lot but, once again, that is not enough to remove a captain. It’s poor policy and it makes everyone uneasy who hears about it, but the ship passed inspection and turned in its paperwork and even a admiral that suspects a problem is left grasping for something solid. It is HARD to relieve a captain, as it should be. Various complaints about style won’t do it. You have to have something firm; a violation of regulations you can prove.

    CDR S’ reference to Arnheiter is instructive. He was a strange man the crew despised but, in the end, he was relieved not for any deficiencies in his relationship with his crew, but for misappropriating mess funds to buy a speedboat to chase sampans. That was what his superiors found to hang him with and no doubt they were mightily relieved to find it. What they found aboard the Cowpens seems to satisfy the requirements for removing her and, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, her membership in an allegedly protected class is apparently of no use to her.

    Graf was, by all accounts, a poor officer and her removal is long overdue. But she’s not the only poor officer in the Navy, and not even the only poor captain, and not even the only poor captain removed in the last few years. The commentary that greeted the relief of the captains in other incidents was sober by comparison, focusing on lessons learned. This has been a gleeful, poisonous, and destructive free-for-all that suggest to every disgruntled subordinate, whether his complaint is valid or not, that his female superior has a “bulletproof vest” that prevents him obtaining redress through ordinary channels. For all your protests to the contrary, this amounts to an attack on every single female officer as a beneficiary of special favors.

    I simply don’t believe that’s true and your circumstantial evidence for it is far weaker than you claim. Perhaps more will come out that proves your case but right now you are offering little but bitter assumptions.

  • CS1(SW/AW) Lewis

    James you’re wrong…Unbelievably wrong by a course of 180 degrees.
    My first XO was a female. She ran the ship and ran it properly. The lot of us were very sorry when she was relived so she could move onto her next shore tour BEFORE taking her first command at present. In other words, the vast majority of us would have followed her to the depths of hell and back without question. This was only four to five years ago. It’s my understanding she is now up for her fourth stripe as she now commands a DDG some where in the Atlantic. We don’t have too many DDG Female COs in the fleet, so you might have an accurate guess as to whom I’m referring to.

    Nevertheless, All these officers and sailors talking about CAPT Graf can’t be wrong, I’m seeing projected thoughts from JOs, DHs, Chiefs and JR sailors alike describing specific incidents which sums up the Captain’s thought pattern and habitual behavior.

    The fact that she is a female is completely immaterial. No one is picking on her because of her gender. It’s her display of leadership which has been called into question. Female officers can become an effective leader and outstanding ship handler.

    CAPT Graf simply doesn’t fit that category. I have this thought on solid authority since I have a friend on that ship serving as an LS1.

    CS1(SW/AW) Lewis

  • In NJP, there is a finding of guilt (or not, theoretically), but there is no conviction, hence, the non-judicial part of it.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Brad, sorry to disagree. There is NO finding of guilt in non-judicial punishment. In fact, to say “I find you guilty” is enough of a procedural error to have the NJP set aside. Seen that happen twice.

    The phrase the NJP authority must use is “I find you have committed the offense”. Guilt has a legal connotation that can only be tied to rules of evidence and rights of a defendant.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “I simply don’t believe that’s true and your circumstantial evidence for it is far weaker than you claim. Perhaps more will come out that proves your case but right now you are offering little but bitter assumptions.”

    You sound like General Casey talking about Major Hasan….

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Mr. Bonds,

    The applicable section of MCM states that there are only two options for the NJP Authority.

    “(A) Does not conclude that the servicemember
    committed the offenses alleged, the nonjudicial punishment
    authority shall so inform the member and
    terminate the proceedings;
    (B) Concludes that the servicemember committed
    one or more of the offenses alleged, the nonjudicial
    punishment authority shall:
    (i) so inform the servicemember;
    (ii) inform the servicemember of the punishment
    imposed; and
    (iii) inform the servicemember of the right to
    appeal (see paragraph 7 of this Part).”

    Note the wording. Very important that NJP authority does not declare a servicemember “guilty.

    The first level in which a service member is a) a defendant, with right, through SCMO of cross-examination, b) able to plead, c) where military riles of evidence apply, is at a summary court martial. That is also the first level in which a SCMO may reach a finding of guilt or innocence.

  • John Bonds

    Roger all. Clearly “guilty” has a legal meaning beyond common convention, at least for lawyers. A finding of fact that the object of the hearing has committed an offense under the UCMJ is the basis for NJP punishment. Like a lot of other people here, I administered NJP for a long time–eight years of commands–and followed the prescribed language. Two or three appeals, no reversals. However, I contend that NJP is not merely administrative action. It can award quite significant punishment to enlisted personnel, as you know. It is “field justice” that deals quickly and decisively with minor offenses under the code–or those that need to be disposed of quickly for other reasons.

  • James

    Lewis: I’m not sure where you disagree with me. I was defending the Navy, not Captain Graf. I have no doubt she was a poor officer and was rightly relieved. I was objecting to the comments made on the board that she was promoted and protected on the basis of her gender. Since the accusers have no real proof of it I thought it unnecessarily detrimental to the Navy, and the Armed Forces generally, to fling out that accusation every time a female officer gets herself into trouble.

    And I am not “180 degrees wrong” about that.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “objecting to the comments made on the board that she was promoted and protected on the basis of her gender. Since the accusers have no real proof of it”

    I suppose that is a matter of opinion. Same with the USNA Color Guard fiasco, the Fort Hood tragedy, Naval Academy and NROTC entrance standards, etc….

    There are none so blind, as the saying goes…

  • Disgruntled Chief

    I was an LCPO onboard the Cow for three years.There are no excuses for this type of conduct. If you cant stand the heat then get out of the kitchen. The previous Captain of the Cowpens, Captain Mosher was a model CO. He knew the capabilities of his ship and his crew and knew how to employ both. He had a mastery of the rules of engagement and would personally give all us watchstanders training on the intricacies. Captain Graf was clueless and thank god we never had to defend ourselves or anyone else while she was in command.

    I truly believe that most of it stemmed from low self confidence, because she was at her worst when she didnt understand something. If you were explaining something technical to her and she didnt understand she would tell you “Got it.” that was explained to me to mean stop talking and leave. I dont expect anyone, even a captain, to know everything. So there should be no shame in asking for an explanation.

    There is no excuse for this lack of leadership, despite the position she was in. To attribute her behavior to the position or stress is bullshit, bluntly stated. This is not a bashing session either because she was actually a nice person if you were able to catch her offline.

    Im glad i survived the Cowpens because thats what it felt like, survival. I dont feel like i accomplished ANYTHING because of her. It was all in spite of her.

    I am not particurally impressed with CTF-70 either because her antics were well know, and her reputation preceded her. Literally. The command equal opportunity surveys were horrendous, and should have signaled to the ISIC that there were serious issues. Consider that you see a common theme of negativity in these threads from Sailors that served under her. That is no coincidence, theres a reason. She didnt fail because she is a women, though she may have been placed in that position because she is a woman. The Navy deserves better, and must do something about this because its not an isolated incident. She is not the first tyrant CO and certainly will not be the last. If any of you have questions or want additional info, ask.

    I will leave you with this last though, it occurred to while serving on the Cowpens. If i didnt show up for work one morning, would my Sailors know how to do their jobs? Yes they would. That tells me that i need them MORE than they need me when it comes to mission accomplishment. Wouldnt the same principle apply to a Cpatain? You bet your ass it does. THE CREW IS THE SHIP! Without those Sailors it is a lifeless chunk of metal. Its about time the Navy recognized this. They say “mission first, Sailors always.” But in reality its “Mission First, Sailors Never.”

  • Fouled Anchor

    Disgruntled, thanks for that first-hand information. I’m particularly interested in how the Chiefs’ Mess and the CMC dealt with a CO like that. If the overall morale was low, how was morale in The Mess?

    People like to talk about the command leadership triad – CO, XO, and CMC. What was going on there? Was it simply a matter of survival for all hands? I’ve heard a little bit, but those are the first questions I thought of when reading the original post.

  • RealChange

    Some of the facts that were released and being debated are not correctly portrayed and some questions still need to be answered if this process is going to result in justice.

    The first fact in dispute is that CAPT Graf was fired. Was she? Because I didn’t see anywhere in the original article or from any of the supposed eye witnesses that she was detached for cause. What was the result of the Admiral’s Mast? What was her punishment?

    The PCO was onboard and ready to take over the ship when CAPT Graf was taken to Mast. Did he simply relieve her in an informal change of command? There are many examples of Commanding Officers who have had substantiated IG investigations in the past couple of years who were promptly, and dishonorably, relieved of their command in a very public fashion. I am not talking about receiving a sentence in the stocks, I am talking about the public humiliation and actual punitive measures taken against a sailor who fails to carry out their duty as the Commanding Officer.

    Was CAPT Graf actually held accountable for her acts or was she let off the hook to avoid a potentially embarassing and difficult punitive process?

  • Disgruntled Chief

    It was pitiful. The mantra was “it is what it is.” The survival mode i think was felt by every single person onboard, not any particular group.

    Morale was low, plain and simple. Things were to be done her way, so thats what we had to do as a mess. Collectively the feeling i got from the group was “why have a seasoned group of experts with deckplate experience, if you dont listen to them?” At the end of the day whether you agreed with her or not, she was the Captain and we had to execute as a cohesive unit. The poor XO was a good guy who was completely overwhelmed by Graf, in some instances screaming at him (and everyone else) on the bridge during special evolutions. There is little an XO or CMC can do with someone so overbearing. I think if they had voiced a loud voice of dissent, then she wouldnt have hesitated to give them a DFC (departure for cause).

  • Suppo

    Very interesting reading so far to say the least. My thoughts…
    – not a gender issue but a major mental health issue at its very worst, affecting the lives and well being of Navy volunteers and their families. Truly a shame that this person was allowed to command not one but two ships.
    – Most surface sailors if being honest would admit that this is hardly the first instance of this behavior. So much had been done over the years to drive out these lack of leadership practices out of the Navy. Many, many people in Navy leadership need to take a real hard look to explain how this was allowed to occur for so long in the year 2010.
    – Most importantly, to the crew of COWPENS. My thoughts are with you and I truly hope that each one of you will not let this sad event taint your overall Navy experience. Keep charging! Stand together and support each other! In due time hopefully this event will become a bad but distant memory and a new leadership team will have the honor of leading you for the remainder of your current tour of duty.

  • Navy IG website:


    Here is the Navy IG website. These are the people that investigated CAPT Graf. The site layout is a bit cumbersome but it is full of information about how to make a complaint and it has contact information for all their different offices.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    “- not a gender issue”

    True. A ‘diversity industry” issue. She didn’t fail because she is female. But it sure seems she was picked to command because she was female. Anointed and protected from repercussions that would have ended the career of a male contemporary. How many others have taken 0-6 commands at sea that come with a warning beforehand to knock off the type of unacceptable leadership and conduct that was noted at their 0-5 at-sea command?

  • eastriver

    Many above have asked why superiors failed to recognize the problem. I submit that it is a potential flaw inherent in the naval system, and always has been. See the British mutinies at Spithead and the Noire during the Napoleonic wars, when naval failure meant the ultimate threat to Britain. Sailors knew that; but they had reached the end of their rope, literally, and no one on top acted to alleviate their situation.

    Perhaps it just matters who’s in charge at that point in time when the rubber hits the road and action is necessary.

  • WSC Plankowner

    First, I want to say that I have not read all the comments here, so perhaps what I’m about to address has already been addressed. Forgive me if I duplicate.
    CDR Salamander – you state “If you or someone else has first hand knowledge of her behavior and/or it was commonly known – then ask the question.”
    Those of us who served under her on the USS Winston S Churchill were asking questions. Lots of questions. Reports were made about incidents almost from day one. We even had the 6th Fleet Chaplin conducting an investigation onboard for 6 weeks while we limped around the Mediterranean (limping because of the incident in Augusta Bay, Italy). He was onboard conducting an investigation because she had screamed at the TAO in CIC, in front of everyone present, and at a decibel loud enough for those in the p-way outside CIC to hear – calling him a “f’ing kike”. Funnily enough, the 6th Fleet Chaplin at the time was a Rabbi. We all thought she was finally going down – but once again – she was saved. I personally think it came down to no one who put her in charge wanted to have to admit, publicly or otherwise, that they had screwed up by putting her in charge to begin with. It just snowballed from there – and maybe it began long before she took command of the Churchill. Whenever it began, I really blame those too cowardly to stand up and say they screwed up by putting in her command.
    The incidents involving her happened daily. And I mean daily. I personally witnessed her hit the XO up side the head with a binder. I can’t count the number of times I personally witnessed her whip a binder or book at someone’s head – from across the room or from a few feet away. The woman was a lose cannon.
    For xformed, who said “…. And how, most likely, no one wanted to be the one to blow the whistle.”
    There were plenty of whistleblowers xformed. Plenty. We just weren’t listened to.
    For James, who said “CDR S has the right of it; no one really knows, at this point, what the higher-ups knew about it and none of the former subordinates trashing her after the fact will acknowledge they did anything to make their superiors aware of her failings back when it would have mattered.”
    I personally am offended by your remarks that we are ‘trashing her after the fact’ – we trashed her while it was happening. Hell, do you think we wanted to live in that hell with her? Do you think we wanted to witness this crap every single day, wondering if it was going to be our head that binder was coming at next time? Why do you think the underway OOD on the WSC wasn’t allowed to have a side arm? My bet is that she knew late one night one of them might just snap and cap her a$$. Not a single person on the ship would have ratted them out – sh!t, they would have helped them throw the body overboard. I’m here to “acknowledge”, that yes, I talked to superiors about her behavior. Hell, I myself was called to the XO’s stateroom about an incident. He was new to the ship, and told me quite frankly he couldn’t believe what he had witnessed. After asking if I could speak freely, I told him to buy a pair of blinders, because he would witness it every day while she was onboard. I certainly spoke freely to the 6th Fleet Chaplin as well. Told him every incident I had witnessed. Told him every incident I had personally experienced with the b%&%*. Am I stupid enough to believe I was the only one with enough guts to speak up? Hell no. Oh hell no. Everyone spoke up. Problem is, no one with authority listened.
    When past crew members of the WSC get together (especially plankowners, because we had the greatest CO ever prior to her, Capt Michael T Franken), or even chat over the internet, it always seems some incident about her ends up being discussed. Like war stories. We can sort of laugh about them now – not laugh in the comical sense – more a laugh that we survived it. We came through, with our crows or our collar devices still intact, our sanity, our lives. No sh!t – our lives – we all figured it was only a matter of time before she actually killed someone.
    No doubt there is a long and distinguished list of senior Naval officers we can thank for her command, and more importantly, her remaining in command for as long as she did. But no one, and I mean no one, should blame or judge one single subordinate of hers and point the finger claiming we didn’t make her superiors aware of her failings.

  • YokosukaPO1

    I’m on a waterfront staff here and have seen her at work among the rest of the CO’s and interfacing with CTF70, and none of this was a surprise. Her incompetence cropped up again and again in both exercises and real-life situations; we always chalked up the COW’s sector as a big question-mark when it came to fulfilling their duties as AW. Morale aboard the ship was truly miserable, and I’m just glad they survived long-enough to shunt the “Mad Cow” (everyone’s nickname for her) out of there before anyone died. Oh, and the incident in question was when she literally choked out a JO. Here’s hoping she tries something like this with a Marine in the Pentagon fresh off a deployment and he slams her into a bulkhead.

  • Curious

    How did USS Lassen’s former CO, CDR Simmons, not get relieved for the same reasons? Maybe relieving a female CO (CAPT Graf) and an African American CO (CDR Simmmons), both in 7th Fleet, would have appearances of violating EO despite the fact that both of them deserved to be relieved. CDR Simmons even had the added bonus of running into a Japanese fishing vessel and crossing way to close to a LNG tanker. Something to think about.

  • GK

    Can any current Sailors on board describe the command climate now?

  • Retired Chief

    I had the pleasure of working with both CAPT Mosher and CAPT Graf on board of the Mighty Moo. There were many leadership problems on-board with both of the CO’s. My question would be how did CAPT Mosher get away with causing substantial damage to the ship during a storm and then lie about the ship’s speed during an inquiry. Often times the Chief’s mess was scapegoat for the shortcomings of the both CO’s. There were a couples Chiefs careers effectively ended because of the wrongful conduct of both CO’s.

  • 06BOB

    In ’65-67 I was a junior officer on a DE in Vietnam (not the Arnheiter affair but close to it) where the CO and XO were not “good guy/bad guy” as is somewhat traditional. They were both bullies and very demeaning to the officers. The wardroom voiced numerous “concerns” to the DESRON chaplain as well as anyone else who wanted to listen.
    Finally the CO a (minority member)was relieved early and not too soon.
    Somehow these officers with less than acceptable leadership traits get through the screening by bluffing their bosses. It’s not new and it will probably happen well into the future.

    One of the problems in exposing these character flaws is junior officer complaints are rarely given credibility.

    I have seen the same occur in the business world. It’s just more dangerous in the military!

  • OldSWO

    After reading the comments above, I just HAVE to wade in.

    Some factors that seem to be danced around in the comments are:

    1. Women have been favored by the Navy’s efforts to integrate them into the service. Yes, they have also suffered discrimination, harassment, and worse, at the deckplate level, but the policy from above has been favorable.
    2. The real point of failure here was the ISIC. The ISIC is the one who “probably” got word (official and unofficial) of CAPT Graf’s style of leadership and didn’t act n it. If you prefer, you can apply the standard applied to any sleeping CO whose OOD manages to collide with another vessel. The ISIC should explain to his higher ups WHY this was allowed to happen to the extent that it did.
    3. O-6’s and above, tend to leave things be until they explode, hoping they don’t, because stepping on the wrong toe WILL cost you your career. In this case, it seem to have taken a physical assault (grabbing by the throat) before they threw an NJP at CAPT Graf.
    4. Back in my day, there was NO official recourse for any officer to route a complaint about a senior officer, never mind the CO, up the chain without committing career suicide. The only complaints that went up outside the Command were the mandatory-reporting-to-the-CNO items such as race-related incidents. I could guess there is still no recourse. (I can already hear the gripes: Yes, there was the anonymous call to the IG option, but in my mind this doesn’t count as an official recoures.)
    5. In my own personal experience, I witnessed and was subjected to screaming, bullying, and other abuse and unfairness from senior officers in my chain(s) of command (I’ sure everyone was). I never witnessed physical contact (except one funny episode between a DH and an XO – hey kept it quiet). Even though, in one occasion the command atmosphere could only be described as toxic. The enlisted complained to the ISIC CMC repeatedly and in no uncertain terms. Command climate surveys were done. The only “result” was that after two years of this ship being the most active and top performing ship in the squadron, the CO was ranked 4 of 7 in his fitrep. Sadly, this is often the only official “action” in these situations.

  • Grandpa Bluewater


    Well said, and checks with my experience to the last decimal point.

    Stepping on the wrong toe can definitely cost you that promotion to flag. On the other hand, if you muster the moral courage to do your plain duty and remove an incompetent CO who won’t, or more likely can’t, come up to minimum standard, and finish out your time with four stripes and honor intact, is that a worse thing than wearing stars which come pretarnished by one’s own superabundant caution and evasion of duty?

    Well, no system is perfectly imperfect. Some few good officers rise to high rank every year. But let’s not kid ourselves, something else rises with the cream to the top.

    With luck, there will be less of that in the USN than its opponents. With luck.

  • Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Mark Thompson picked up this story. His report is here:,8599,1969602,00.html

    Although critical of the Navy in this piece about Captain Graf, he wrote a story about CDR Kathleen McGrath just under 10 years about her assuming command of USS Jarrett. That story is here:,9171,996429,00.html

  • Old Fart

    At first I had to do a double-take at “Her” photo because she sorta looks, in a strange way, like a man. Back in the day (1960’s) it was unheard of to have a woman in charge of anything…Today they command warships….Unreal….Regardless, I’m not gender bashing here, I’m sure there are countless female officers that can command, I’m just not sure if it is right to allow a woman that may or may not have her own issues dealing with her gender assignment running a warship or in any command position at all. At the very least, 40 years ago, officers like her, male and female, ended up getting their jsut reward. On the battlefield it was called “Friendly Fire”. I hope this “Woman” seeks help, because she needs it.

  • randy bauer

    As a recipient of this kind of behaviour from my superiors, I am glad to hear that someone up there is once again being ignored. I made such a complaint against a C.O. and was threatened with leavenworth, as if I was the bad guy! FTN

  • Mark Thompson is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has written to both sides of the Navy experiment. Captain Kathleen McGrath fared far better than Captain Graf. We would do well to remember one of the ‘good ones’ as we see where Captain Graf has ended up.

  • njvaflnyncoh

    I have to ask- did anyone see evidence of this back at the Naval Academy. What did her FitReps show when she was a jo. The fact this she got away with this for 25 years is beyond words. Heads need to role- a good look at her sisters influence is a good start!

  • Randy H.

    If she indeed layed hands on a member of the crew, good riddance. I know of an XO in the 80’s who literally kicked the $&^% out of an RM he caught napping in Radio Central(offwatch at the time). Nothing was ever done to him. In fact the last time I saw him he was a Commodore. And the CO at the time retired as a RA. If you are in disbelief, find someone who was on the Gridley in the mid-eighties.

  • Former Scopedope

    You know, most of the way through the comments I was ambivalent about the “gender-preference” issue and whether or not it was relevant here. Bad COs happen, after all. But then I read,

    “she had screamed at the TAO in CIC, in front of everyone present, and at a decibel loud enough for those in the p-way outside CIC to hear – calling him a “f’ing kike”.”

    OK- THAT seals it. It is utterly inconceivable that ANY CO (or anyone else) could get away with screaming a racial slur at an officer in front of multiple witnesses, unless “special treatment’ was the order of the day. That’s a CNO-attention level offense. For whatever political reason, CAPT Graf was being protected from the top down.

  • Gary Hammond

    In response to the recently relieved Holly Graf.

    Go ahead a throw fish at me if you dislike this reponse, but I’m old school 2nd generation USNavy and from several hundred years of mariner geneology. Generally speaking a female naval officer should not be allowed to skipper a man of war ship because this ship is designed for war. There are other positions where females officers can honorably serve and gain earned respect.
    In my observation, the presures of leadership can be excess and overerly demanding in the Navy. The coolness of composure and emotional strengh to keep things together is obviously important, and the crew looks at this composure for strong leadership. It would take the character of a Margert Thatcher or Golda Meir to meet these presure challenges without physical reactions to the rank and file but neither of these woman were in the Navy. However, these rare woman were extrodinary people. Nevertheless, I for one, would put in for a transfer asap if a female capt was installed as CO of a war ship and then seriously question the wisdom of the Admirality.

    RM2 72-80

  • Kay Moore

    My last C.O. in 2002 was 10 times worse. He was constantly yelling and belittling the personnel. We were on a North Atlantic cruise and the XO was relieved. It surely should have been the C.O.

  • Dennis

    It’s about time CO’s are being held accounted for abuse, quite frankly this goes on all the time, CO’s have such enormous ego’s they think they can do and say what ever they want. I pray that more people start waging complaints against Commanding Officers who verbaly abuse and treat people like dirt. You can also contact the Office of Special Council in Washington DC to file a complaint. I urge all sailors/civilians to stand up and take action against this abuse. CO’s are nothing more that a boss, not the GOD that they think they are.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    From the article cited by Captain Lambert, above, a quote from CDR McGrath’s Exec:

    “She’s not in command because she’s a woman,” says her second-in-command, Lieutenant Commander Joseph Chiaravallotti. “She’s in command because she’s better than everyone else who’s not in command.”

    Could the same ever have been said about Holly Graf?

  • DParks

    Just a few comments about this thread: I enlisted in 1953, when the Navy was different. I owe most of my subsequent success in life to the training and values the Navy gave me. After I left the service I worked on Navy avionics programs until 1996, riding most of the CGs and DDGs then in commission as a TechRep. I know it’s stupid to yearn for the old days and I know you got to adapt or die, but putting hysterical females in command positions is worse than stupid. Ask yourselves, people, whether the USN should begin to resemble the Dutch Navy a few years from now.
    Finally – I notice there are few- to-no misspellings and grammatical errors in this thread. Hallelujah!

  • UltimaRatioReg


    “I notice there are few- to-no misspellings and grammatical errors in this thread. ”

    That is on account of we talk and write English wicked good! 🙂

  • John Cannon

    The article concerning Capt. Graf, and her dismissal is interesting. I served in the USN from 1970-1974, and it appears that the “species” is the same, only the gender is different. Commanders with this type of personality discourage many people from remainig in the USN.
    Yet, time and again, all the USN does is reassign these “bullies” and make then someone elses problem.
    Perhaps it is time to bring these abrasive individuals up on charges, court martial them, and for punsihment, strip them of their pension.
    AS someone who has owned and managed his own company, it is clear to me that people only do what they know they can get away with.

  • Twidget

    I having witnessed her as a junior officer back when she was on a DESRON staff in the 90’s could have told you then that she was unfit to be in command based on her attitude and lack of any real leadership skill. A good leader will never have to yell or badger people repeatedly to obtain the desired result. She was mean and abusive and had an axe to grind with most any male she came across back then. She was fully vested in the Patsy Schroeder school of military leadership – i.e. if I don’t get what I want threaten charges or make accusations of sexual harassment. The problem lies with the senior officer some of which are now Flag Officers who failed to observe her interaction with subordinates or ignored it or used promoting a female for their own gains. Failure to call a spade a spade is why we have so many failed CO’s right now. Probably 60% of the good JO’s leave after their obligation over the poor command climates they often endure. The SWO community certainly does that. Some of the aviation community is becoming that way. She was bad a long time ago and didn’t get better. Time for her to retire to a life of leisure somewhere where she won’t be abusing anyone. A hard look at every FITREP she ever signed should also happen. She probably hurt some other good folks out of spite.

  • I think you should promote the commander to full bird.her junior officers were pulling a mutiny.

  • admiral boreda

    The navy is out of hand.there ain’t no team in team any more.

  • Lynn Hawkins

    Chief Cadera served on the USS Cowpens last year. He tranfered elsewhere {ran away} after committing many abusive acts against a fine young man and no doubt others. He is a cowardly cruel individual.