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The Rise and Fall of a Female Captain Bligh

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  • The Rise and Fall of a Female Captain Bligh

    The Rise and Fall of a Female Captain Bligh
    By MARK THOMPSON / WASHINGTON Wednesday, Mar. 03, 2010



    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.

    The case has attracted wide notice inside the Navy and on Navy blogs, where her removal has generated cheers from those who had served with her since she graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1985. While many denounced Graf, even greater anger seems directed at the Navy brass for promoting such an officer to positions of ever-increasing responsibility. Graf declined an interview request.

    While in command at sea — where a captain's word is law and she or he has the power to make or break careers — Graf swore like, well, a sailor. She "creates an environment of fear and hostility [and] frequently humiliates and belittles watch standers by screaming at them with profanities in front of the Combat Information Center and bridge-watch teams," a crew member told the IG. According to 29 of the 36 crew members who were questioned for the Navy's report, Graf repeatedly dropped F bombs on them. "Take your goddam attitude and shove it up your f______ ass and leave it there," she allegedly told an officer during a stressful maneuver aboard the 567-ft., 10,000-ton vessel.

    Junior officers seeking her guidance were rebuffed. "This is one of the reasons I hate you," she allegedly told one who was seeking her help. When another officer visited her quarters to discuss an earlier heated discussion, her response was terse: "Get the f___ out of my stateroom." She allegedly told a male officer, "The only words I want to hear out of your mouth are 'Yes ma'am' or 'You're correct, ma'am.' " She also allegedly put a "well-respected master chief" in "time out" — standing in the ship's key control room doing nothing — "in front of other watch standers of all ranks."

    While most of the witness statements contained in the IG report didn't specify whether the person testifying was male or female, the IG asked at least two female officers whether they viewed Graf as a role model. A younger woman recalled going to Graf to seek her help. " 'Don't come to me with your problems,' " she said, quoting Graf. " 'You're a f______ department head.' " The officer also said that Graf once told her, "I can't express how mad you make me without getting violent."

    A second female officer told the IG that Graf was a "terrible role model for women in the Navy," alleging that Graf once told her and a fellow officer on the bridge, "You two are f______ unbelievable. I would fire you if I could, but I can't."

    The IG investigation, triggered last June by three anonymous complaints, noted that while interviews were being conducted over Graf's conduct at the Yokosuka Navy base outside Tokyo, four crew members provided "unsolicited written statements concerning what they perceived as abuse." While curses are not uncommon aboard Navy vessels, to have them repeatedly brandished like clubs against subordinates — especially in front of more junior crew members — is unusual. TIME obtained a copy of the IG report, from which names had been deleted, under the Freedom of Information Act.

    Graf told the IG she had "no recollection" of making such comments, and the report says she "appeared incredulous at the accusations." She "repeatedly" emphasized her "very high standards for [her] crew" and "repeatedly" spoke of a "groupthink mentality" aboard her vessel. Graf said a "small group of disgruntled officers in the Cowpens wardroom were spreading rumors throughout the crew and convincing others that the command climate and [her] demeanor were far worse than they actually were." But she followed up with an e-mail. "Many times I raised my tone (and used swear words) to ensure they knew this times, it was no kidding," she wrote. "I also did it on other occasions to intentionally pressurize the situation."

    The lone support of Graf in the 50-page report came via an unsolicited e-mail from a Navy colleague who had spent two weeks aboard Cowpens and said Graf may be "blunt, but clearly [her] intent is readiness." But the IG came down firmly on the side of her crew. "The evidence shows" that Graf violated Navy regulations "by demeaning, humiliating, publicly belittling and verbally assaulting ... subordinates while in command of Cowpens," the report concluded. Her actions "exceeded the firm methods needed to succeed or even thrive" and her "harsh language and profanity were rarely followed with any instruction." Her repeated criticism of her officers, often in front of lower-ranking crew members, humiliated subordinates and corroded morale, "contrary to the best interests of the ship and the Navy." The IG also found that she had failed to adequately train younger officers.

    The report claims that she grabbed several junior officers or sailors to get their attention or move them elsewhere — usually while in a heated discussion — and threw a wadded-up piece of paper at one. It also says she asked junior officers to play piano at her personal Christmas party and to walk her dogs. These minor infractions might have been overlooked if committed by a more even-keeled commander, but in Graf's case they were used to substantiate the charges of "assault" and the use of her "office for personal gain" that led to her removal.

    On one popular Navy blog there are 190 posts on Graf, nearly all negative and most from those who served with her. There were only four supportive posts, none apparently from anyone who had served with her. "The only way that Capt. Graf could have failed at being CO of the Cowpens was to try to please all her sailors," a backer wrote. "Leadership is lonely and not for the fainthearted."

    But many officers who served with Graf over the years were not surprised by the IG's findings. Paul Coco, a 2002 Naval Academy graduate, served as a gunnery officer under Graf aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Winston S. Churchill from 2002 to 2004. "She would throw coffee cups at officers — ceramic, not foam," he recalls, "spit in one officer's face, throw binders and paperwork at people, slam doors." The hostile work environment led to a gallows humor among the crew. "We all would joke that after Bush liberated Iraq, he would next liberate Churchill," he says. That day finally came in January 2004, when Commander Todd Leavitt arrived to replace Graf. "As soon as Commander Leavitt said 'I relieve you' to Commander Graf, the whole ship, at attention, roared in cheers," he says.

    "I'm more upset that the Navy let this go on so long," says Kirk Benson, who retired from the Navy as a commander three years ago after a 20-year career. Many complaints up the chain fell on "deaf ears," he says. "When I think of Holly Graf, even 12 years later, I shake," he says of serving under her when she was second in command on the destroyer U.S.S. Curtis Wilbur in 1997-98. "She was so intimidating even to me, a 6-foot-4 guy."

    Nicole Waybright served as a junior officer for five years, including a year with Graf on the Wilbur in 1997-98, before leaving the Navy in 2001. "She was a terrible ship handler," Waybright recalls. "I was 23 years old and I wanted to show, just by my actions, that women could do it and just blend in like the gray doors with the rest of the gray ship," she said. "But she betrayed our gender." Waybright felt the Navy pushed women into command too quickly at the time, but adds that Graf's "sadistic cruelty" didn't help.

    Shawn Smith is a retired Navy captain who along with her husband, also a retired Navy captain, applauded their daughter's decision to join the Navy in 2007 after graduating from Notre Dame on a Navy ROTC scholarship. Erin Smith was "seriously considering" making the Navy a career, like her parents, until she was assigned to the Cowpens. "Her experiences with Captain Graf definitely helped form her decision to do her time and leave the Navy," her mother says. "I was appalled that this happened, guilty — I think she went into the Navy because of us — and angry, because these kids did not deserve this kind of leadership."

    Even though Graf comes from a Navy family — her sister and brother-in-law are both admirals, and her father was a captain — there appears to have been no "godfather" shielding her and greasing the skids for her promotion, Navy officers say. Prior to the IG probe's release, the Navy had tapped Graf for a top job at the Pentagon following her Cowpens command. Now she's being shuffled off to a Navy weapons lab outside the capital. "Her career," an admiral says, "is over."
    http://www.time.com/time/nation/arti...9602-1,00.html

    Fireplace
    Captain
    Last edited by Fireplace; 6 March 2010, 00:12.
    You will never have a quiet world until you knock the patriotism out of the human race

  • #2
    This is all over US military Boards and by all accounts she is a cnut and deserves every thing she gets..

    They are glad as up until this breaking she was getting the navies equivalent of a star..not ant more though...lol
    Craghopper
    Custom User Title
    Last edited by Craghopper; 6 March 2010, 00:15.

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    • #3
      How did it go on for so long?

      It says she spat in a subordinates face?!?!!?!?!?

      How the hell did she get away with that?
      To close with and kill the enemy in all weather conditions, night and day and over any terrain

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      • #4
        send her to haulboline .. the lads will have her purring like a kitten she needs some tlc

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by HavocIRL View Post
          How did it go on for so long?

          It says she spat in a subordinates face?!?!!?!?!?

          How the hell did she get away with that?
          Fear..

          Comment


          • #6
            While it's obvious that this woman was a crap leader in every way, and shouldn't be trusted with a corner flag, never mind a warship, stuff like this irritates me:
            According to 29 of the 36 crew members who were questioned for the Navy's report, Graf repeatedly dropped F bombs on them.
            I'd wager that most people have "dropped an f bomb" at some stage during a moment of pressure. While it's not necessarily right, in this case there was far worse going on - multiple seperate examples of assault, abuse of rank, failure to carry out her duties etc. The story should start with those examples, rather than relatively inconsequential issues.

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            • #7
              If someone ****ed a cup at me or spit at me, I'd burst them.

              She should have been ****ed out.

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              • #8
                So she was sidelined because

                she threw a rolled up piece of paper at someone

                she told some bird not to come to her but go to her depthead

                her language was robust and colourful

                she wasnt popular and didnt give her crew a warm gooey feeling

                is the American Navy soft as shite-
                Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
                Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
                The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere***
                The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
                The best lack all conviction, while the worst
                Are full of passionate intensity.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by hedgehog View Post
                  So she was sidelined because

                  she threw a rolled up piece of paper at someone

                  she told some bird not to come to her but go to her depthead

                  her language was robust and colourful

                  she wasnt popular and didnt give her crew a warm gooey feeling

                  is the American Navy soft as shite-
                  Did you miss the bit where she threw cups at people? Spit at someone? Humiliated her subordinates? Abused her rank? Failed to train young officers properly?

                  If it's considered soft to pull someone up for that kind of behaviour, well then thank **** the USN is soft.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Hello Alaska View Post
                    Did you miss the bit where she threw cups at people? Spit at someone? Humiliated her subordinates? Abused her rank? Failed to train young officers properly?

                    If it's considered soft to pull someone up for that kind of behaviour, well then thank **** the USN is soft.
                    No I didnt- but you obviously missed the bit where she was sidleined by the IG for

                    throwing paper- using bad words- getting a lad to play the piano and other such war crimes.

                    You may also have missed the fact that the

                    the throwing ceramic cups and spitting accusations were made anonymously on

                    what may be the US Navy's version of IMO-


                    So in effect if we ignore the Naval IMO web chat- this little lady lost her Star

                    because she wasnt liked- threw scrunched up paper (oohh oooh paper cuts- and at least 15 pointy edges) used bad fkcuing language- etc.

                    I cant remember ever throwing paper at someone but I dont think I did because I would have been laughed at.

                    I couldnt get through breakfast with out using the f and c words

                    I have brought subordinates into line by using the phrase "heels"

                    I once told a Cpl go outside and calm down and when you come back in if you talk to me again like that I will lock you up-

                    I cant say I ever gave the troops a feeling of gooey warmness-


                    WHo ever thinks yeah te bitch is gone - simply on the information posted here

                    is also soft as shite-

                    Looking at Sharon Ni Bhraiolan gives me an all over warm gooey feeling- she is defitnely nice- but would you seriously want S ni B leading you into battle-
                    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
                    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
                    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere***
                    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
                    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
                    Are full of passionate intensity.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'm most concerned that she put her Master Chief, the senior NCO aboard ship on a "time out", in the ops room. Humiliating a senior NCO in front of other officers and a junior NCOs as would be founn in the ops room is inexcusable. If you have issues with people at this level, you discuss it in private, not in front of the crew.

                      I think her gender is being played up too much here. She was a shit leader, with brutal people management skills. No doubt she was the type who played the gender card to get where she got. A male officer carrying on the same way would never get further than command of a remote weather station in alaska...


                      Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by hedgehog View Post
                        ...she told some bird not to come to her but go to her depthead...-
                        No, she said You ARE a fcuking department head.

                        Originally posted by Hello Alaska View Post
                        Did you miss the bit where she threw cups at people? Spit at someone? Humiliated her subordinates? Abused her rank? Failed to train young officers properly?

                        If it's considered soft to pull someone up for that kind of behaviour, well then thank **** the USN is soft.
                        Hedgie is bucking the consensus in order to create an argument. He knows that Capt Graf's behaviour is unacceptable but he throws out a contrary opinion in order to get others to bite.

                        The real Capt Bligh was actually not as bad as myth has painted him and he had a successful career after the mutiny on the Bounty.
                        sigpic
                        Say NO to violence against Women

                        Originally posted by hedgehog
                        My favourite moment was when the
                        Originally posted by hedgehog
                        red headed old dear got a smack on her ginger head

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Goldie fish View Post
                          I'm most concerned that she put her Master Chief, the senior NCO aboard ship on a "time out", in the ops room. Humiliating a senior NCO in front of other officers and a junior NCOs as would be founn in the ops room is inexcusable. If you have issues with people at this level, you discuss it in private, not in front of the crew
                          +1
                          "Well, stone me! We've had cocaine, bribery and Arsenal scoring two goals at home. But just when you thought there were truly no surprises left in football, Vinnie Jones turns out to be an international player!" (Jimmy Greaves)!"

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                          • #14
                            I'm most concerned that she put her Master Chief, the senior NCO aboard ship on a "time out", in the ops room. Humiliating a senior NCO in front of other officers and a junior NCOs as would be founn in the ops room is inexcusable
                            Can you tell me the details of the entire incident-

                            As a young Sgt I was always thought to remonstrate with Cpls away from the Pte's
                            except in cases wher the Cpl has openly challenged your authority in front of said Pte's-

                            Maybe ( and we dont knwo) the Chief said something to her in public that could have been said in private and as such she needed to put him in his place-

                            we dont actually kow that the "time out" is as it isnt explained fully-


                            She was a shit leader, with brutal people management skills. No doubt she was the type who played the gender card to get where she got. A male officer carrying on the same way would never get further than command of a remote weather
                            Can you tell me what her Officer evaluation for the last 2 years was- No - from the brief newspaper article and internet stuff we cant actually make a determined opinion on this woman.

                            We dont know if gender got her where she is

                            we dont know if she played the gender card

                            hell we havent even heard her side of the story-

                            if we are going to condemm some one at least give them a fair hearing-

                            No, she said You ARE a fcuking department head.
                            Exactly

                            Hedgie is bucking the consensus in order to create an argument. He knows that Capt Graf's behaviour is unacceptable but he throws out a contrary opinion in order to get others to bite.
                            I just hate the lynch mob mentality-

                            You as a Military man should be the first to realise that not everything is always black and white

                            things can be taken out of context- we dont know the circumstances surrounding the events complained off- but if we take as fact the IG's report- this woman is guilty of

                            throwing a scrunched up piece of paper at someone

                            using bad language and not being popular with her crew-

                            the spitting and cup throwing allegations were mere internet chit chat.
                            Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
                            Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
                            The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere***
                            The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
                            The best lack all conviction, while the worst
                            Are full of passionate intensity.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by hedgehog View Post
                              Exactly.
                              Please tell me that you can spot the difference in these two statements;

                              go to her depthead...
                              you are a department head...
                              Originally posted by hedgehog View Post
                              I just hate the lynch mob mentality-.
                              A mob is about to extra-judicially execute Capt. Graf?

                              Originally posted by hedgehog View Post
                              You as a Military man should be the first to realise that not everything is always black and white

                              things can be taken out of context- we dont know the circumstances surrounding the events complained off- but if we take as fact the IG's report- this woman is guilty of

                              throwing a scrunched up piece of paper at someone

                              using bad language and not being popular with her crew-

                              the spitting and cup throwing allegations were mere internet chit chat.
                              I have made no comment on Capt. Graf's actions. However she has been removed from command as a result of a high level investigation. We may therefore conclude that she has done something wrong to justify that "punishment" and so your lynch mob comment is unwarranted.
                              sigpic
                              Say NO to violence against Women

                              Originally posted by hedgehog
                              My favourite moment was when the
                              Originally posted by hedgehog
                              red headed old dear got a smack on her ginger head

                              Comment

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