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Bob Schoultz
Naval/Academic leader

Bob Schoultz

Captain Bob Schoultz (U.S. Navy, Ret.) directs the Master of Science in Global Leadership at the University of San Diego's School of Business Administration.

A failure of Navy leadership

This commentary comes in response to the Navy's firing of six commanding officers, including Capt. Holly Graf.

My experience in the Navy has been that firing a Commanding Officer is a step very reluctantly taken and only after very careful and serious deliberations at several levels of the Navy's command structure. The Naval tradition of autonomy of the commander at sea remains a key pillar of Navy culture but it is eroding quickly and, in some cases, possibly for the better.

In a world of instant and ubiquitous communications, and increased accountability to the American public, the Navy has had to adapt by providing more oversight and demanding more accountability of their commanding officers, not just for results, but also for process.

The Navy still tries to give commanders the authority they need to run their commands, without having to fear an over-reaction to every anonymous hotline call that a disgruntled sailor might make. But hotline calls are a reality and can provide more accountability for a Commanding Officer's behavior and reputation on the deck plates. Anonymous calls are apparently what finally led to the investigation that resulted in Capt. Graf being relieved for cause.

Belittling subordinates in public, as Capt. Graf was apparently wont to do, is almost never an effective leadership tool. If a Commanding Officer is perceived as someone who belittles subordinates routinely, especially in public, it can only undermine her leadership and authority. Subordinates will be reluctant to come to "the skipper" with bad news, if verbal abuse has become the norm.

Regarding profanity, I and most naval officers are no strangers to using profanity, but most are careful to use it in private with trusted confidants, or in one-on-one exchanges, or occasionally as a "tactic" to meet a specific objective, as Capt. Graf claims was her motivation. That said, there is still the "officer and a gentleman (or lady)" image that the Navy aspires to uphold, even as the traits of "gentlemen and lady" morph to meet new cultural norms. I'm surprised that Capt. Graf, by routinely using profanity in front of her entire crew, would be so willing to abandon the image of class and discretion that a Commanding Officer and a Naval Officer should seek to represent.

Other things I've read about this case certainly challenge the Navy to look into their process for selecting commanding officers of Surface Navy ships, when apparently there was ample evidence of what appears to be unstable or abusive behavior in her previous tours.

How and why was this ignored or covered up? Was it political correctness in unwillingness to confront an aggressive and hard-charging female officer? What led her to believe that such behavior was acceptable or would be tolerated? These and other questions are worth asking in the wake of such a leadership failure, on the part of Capt. Graf, and on the part of the Navy for selecting her for command.

By Bob Schoultz

 |  March 9, 2010; 6:46 AM ET
Category:  Military Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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As a Navy Captain myself, I have to agree with some earlier posters. CAPT Schoultz wrote a good column for the most part but why is it necessary to think that CAPT Graf received her promotion because of political correctness? There have also been male officers promoted who proved themselves unworthy of the eagles and commands given to them-- were their promotions due to political correctness or just inadequate scrutinizing of records at the selection boards? Or a failure on the part of the officers who wrote the fitness reports that got them selected? From what I have read, the Navy did the right thing in relieving CAPT Graf, and it would have been the right call had she been a male officer. I have to wonder if a male skipper's conduct would have gotten the same scrutiny though. "Aggressive and hard charging" as any military reading this well know, is seen as a positive commentary that gets one selected for promotion and command. Crude, rude and boorish behavior should always be a cause for concern though, most especially among our commissioned ranks that are supposed to be setting the example.

Posted by: autumnstorm | March 10, 2010 9:53 AM
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I'm a woman who spent 24 years in the AF. Women like CAPT Graf absolutely ruin things for hard working women and that is proven by some of the sexists posts here. For every 10 women out there working hard and doing it right, it only takes one spectacularly bad apple to make the rest look awful.

Remember, CAPT Graf didn't get to CAPT by herself. She was mentored and she was promoted by the men above her, therefore they own her too.

It wasn't menopause and it wasn't PMS that made Graf the way she was, she is simply as bad as some of the worst men. Didn't I read that 6 commanding officers were fired this year already? They weren't all women, posters, but the article in the WaPo only names Graf!

At least the Navy fired Graf before she could lose nuclear weapons, unlike the AF.

Posted by: arancia12 | March 9, 2010 11:51 PM
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The navy openly admits that the process for promoting naval officers up through the ranks is geared to promote the best fitness reports, not the nest officers. If you have the fitness reports that make you out to be a hard charger who gets stuff done, you'll move ahead. It glorifies mission accomplishment without regard to the cost. A CO can run a crew into the ground but as long as they've accomplished their mission, a Meritorious Service Medal or Legion of Merit will be bestowed upon them on their way to their next job and that command tour will be deemed successful. Never mind the aftermath of that "success" as measured by poor retention of personnel, substance abuse issues, suicide attempts, poor states of readiness in areas not emphasized by the prior CO, etc.

I don't know Holly Graf but I suspect that her success was largely due to her ability to extract performance out of people for the short periods of time needed for her to punch her ticket. After 15-18 months depending on the assignment, she could move on but what about the sailors who may have 36-48 months on the same ship? The role of political correctness probably had little to do with tolerance for her behavior and is more symptomatic of a system that prefers to ignore those issues until they absolutely cannot be ignored.

From comments elsewhere, Graf's competency as a officer and professional mariner are highly questionable. The navy should look within itself at the process of selecting and qualifying commanding officers and consider if it should be a final filter for prospective COs or a pump that feeds the fleet with COs regardless of their skills. The Royal Navy, from which the US Navy draws many of its customs and traditions, has a much more robust training and qualification process for COs and other key officers. A prospective CO in the Royal Navy who demonstrates a lack of seamanship or tactical skill can be de-selected for command during their prospective CO training. The US navy could benefit by adopting similar practices.

Posted by: Rick441 | March 9, 2010 11:18 PM
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Unstable and abusive behavior. That's what you get from a sociopath. A sociopath commonly occupies a middle management position. Such person manages up beautifully, painting a picture of himself or herself as competent and in full control. Said person appears to be delivering the goods. Meanwhile those who report to the sociopath are having fits trying to deal with a person who refuses to be pleased and sees his or her job only through his or her own lens. "Results, not excuses." "I don't get ulcers. I give them." Those who report to the sociopath are probably normal, high functioning people who take pride in their work. The sociopath takes credit for all success and redirects blame for any failures. The sociopath often sabotages projects while leaving no fingerprints. It is a no win situation. Going outside the chain of command is verboten in the military. So those who are stuck remain stuck and suffer for it.

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | March 9, 2010 10:31 PM
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typical blather from an entitled white male who indignantly tries to keep the playing field unlevel by screaming PC when he sees something he did not like. he liked it better when half the human race was prevented from competing for these jobs.
BTW - if all women are simply pawns in a PC chess game, how open-minded to diversity is this old dinosaur?
should all men have been tarred when the Tailhook broke open (tho the author probably thinks that was a set-up.) how about the people who posted the obscene huge banner of a female member of congress performing a sex act, INSIDE an officer's club, for her to see? Google Pat Schroeder and read about it. how about the men and boys who chained female mids to toilets when they attended the USNA, which my hard-earned tax dollars pay for. can you say felon?
men have been vile and vicious to women in the Navy for decades, and sneeringly dismiss all women with the PC label. apparently men want so badly to have these jobs to themselves they will debase themselves and lie to retain alpha male status.
hate that I pay their salaries, pensions, benefits etc. for life. would love to see them have to compete in the diverse private sector for jobs. they'd last a month....if that. women could replace these sexists pig with ease, and without the foul mouth. look how well women have been doing in Iraq and Afgan. - proof positive.

Posted by: FloridaChick | March 9, 2010 10:12 PM
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i was a drill sgt - we took classes in cussing, yelling and screaming.
it worked.

Posted by: infantry11b4faus | March 9, 2010 10:07 PM
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Probably hitting menopause... something women howl about when mentioned by men but in the real world, we all know it’s there... both men & women.

I just love pulling chains...

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Posted by: naitkonlyyou | March 9, 2010 9:57 PM
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Why leap to the political correctness question? There are plenty of male jerks in charge in the military. Why is it only the woman who gets relieved of command? While she sounds like a horrible person, she doesn't sound as bad as others who have been allowed to continue to lead--sexual harrasers, people who cover up rape, people who try to force Christianity down people's throats, etc.

Posted by: rosepetals64 | March 9, 2010 9:57 PM
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On the one hand:

Did the Capt. believe the Cowpens was on a SEALS mission?

On the other hand, was Cdr. Massa at one time her XO?

Posted by: thealaskan | March 9, 2010 9:18 PM
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There are two things you really, really cannot do as captain of a Navy ship. The first is collide with another vessel.

But the worst is to run the ship aground.

Either of these and you will lose your command and never get another one.

Posted by: screwjob11 | March 9, 2010 9:17 PM
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Interesting topic. In my 22 years as a commissioned officer, I've seen the type of poor leadership displayed by Captain Graf. Sadly, the Navy often tolerates tyrants for instant results. The Navy is also reluctant to relieve a bad skipper because once there is blood in the water, it can start a feeding frenzy that undermines confidence in leadership throughout the fleet. Still, if the Navy did not sacrifice its standards of behavior for the instant gratification of passing an inspection (OPPE, INSURV, 3-M, etc.) and a "Battle E," we could have better long-term results.

As for the PC argument, there is legitimacy there. Again, I have seen unqualified people advanced beyond their capability for the sake of numbers. I can give examples, but it is rather pointless, and a bit unfair. (I've seen the fair-haired boys fast-tracked too.) But I can't help but wonder, when Holly Graf was being fast-tracked, what was the role of the senior surface detailer, then-Captain Mike Mullen?

Posted by: mandog | March 9, 2010 9:17 PM
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Most people old enough to have worked for twenty years have encountered the type: narcisisstic female supervisor whose grossly defective management skills and evident emotional issues would have resulted in firing but for her gender.

It's one thing when it happens at a company that makes paint, brushes and rollers. It's something else again when it affects the readiness of armed forces who are your last line of defense against people who mean to do you serious harm.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | March 9, 2010 9:03 PM
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That photo looks more like something out of the cable TV show "Whale Wars" [in which ships have collided at least twice] than something which should ever involve 2 ships of the U.S. Navy.

You have a point. The target should have been a bit less expensive.

On a "reserve cruise" years ago a few of the dependents were taken along. On the way to Vancouver we were treated to a GQ drill in the midst of a Soviet fishing fleet. Special attn. was given to the trawler with all the antennae, a pix much like this race-- then again the stakes were different- the weapons shorter range--and the capt. had his crew's confidence.

Posted by: thealaskan | March 9, 2010 8:49 PM
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There is of course the case of the white male sub commander who brought his sub up and wiped out a small japanese vessel, killing something like 17 people.

He was white and male, so of course this Captain would't consider the sub commander promoted as a PC move-- white male

White Males have had a lock on PC promotions for hundreds of years. HOw else did the author ever make it to Captain?

Posted by: newagent99 | March 9, 2010 8:47 PM
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So if the male officers promoted her only because she's a woman, is the author arguing for them being fired? If not, why not? Are they "victims" of their choices?
The author seems to believe that one woman represents all women, therefore one man represents all men.

So the Tailhook scandel guys are what the Navy guys are all about- drinking, harrassment, vomiting,nasty.
That must be true given the authors opinions.

Posted by: newagent99 | March 9, 2010 8:39 PM
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The Navy had its best days long, long ago. PC-based 'diversity' programs ruined it. Women on ships, now soon in subs, getting pregnant, using their pee-pees to gain favor or to get out of trouble, bug worshipers ascendant, and very soon a militant homosexual community will further destroy it.

God help us all.

Posted by: tjhall1 | March 9, 2010 8:37 PM
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"The evidence shows" that Graf violated Navy regulations "by demeaning, humiliating, publicly belittling and verbally assaulting ... subordinates"
Jeez Louise, she got to be Capt. w/o getting the word that the above is the job description of the XO and the CPO's?

Seriously, I only worked in the merchant marine. My dad and brother, on the hand, did time in the service.

My dad only got rid of two cpo's, one who came racing back during an inspection with a beer: "Look what I found"-- The story was he should have ditched it and solved the problem.

The other cpo-defect was assigned to another crew and got after a few of my dad's sailors for their sideburns after a war patrol. Bye Bye.

How did this alledged harpie get scrambled eggs?

Ask the cap who wrote her fitness report when she first served as xo. That stemwinder should get retirement.

What a number, she never realized that CO's are gawds or at least get to commune with the senior CPO. She had no business interacting with the believers like this.

Posted by: thealaskan | March 9, 2010 8:34 PM
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They told us in boot camp that the officers were aristocracy and we were the peasants. We were treated exactly that way and expected to happily submit. The enlisted ranks were an angry pecking order of petty sniping, harassment, dumping on and general mistreatment - all in the naval tradition - by lifers who couldn't survive in the civilian world. The Navy needs a complete shake-up and a ticket out of the 18th century.

Posted by: dubhlaoich | March 9, 2010 8:33 PM
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An interesting point that has not been focused on is also CAPT Graf's role as a representative of the United States of America. Word on the street is that she was an embarassment to this great nation of ours when dealing with our coalition partners as well; insulting a Royal Australian Navy Admiral and being forced to formally apologize.

I don't think it is a new thing for a military leader to act this way. But why was it tolerated throughout her career? Usually such a caustic character will undermine himself/herself early on, roll out of the service or correct his/her habits before responsibility is heaped upon them; much less major command!

I have a question for CAPT Shoultz:

Would you advocate taking away a SEAL Officer's Trident if they displayed similar behavior? I would like to see her SWO qual get pulled as she has shamed the whole USN surface warfare community and will never go to sea again.

Posted by: JustaHick | March 9, 2010 8:26 PM
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For those of us who spent years in the Navy and years at sea this comes as no surprise. Out of the seven afloat Co's I had six were everything I or the Navy had any right to expect. The seventh could have given lessons to Bligh or Ahab. The Navy has traditionally given ship captains enormous discretion- probably too much for the last 50 years. Ships rarely operate singly, and they are always in communication with other units or the beach. This tradition of absolute authority and autonomy is no longer necessary or appropriate in the age of the satellite phone, otherwise these "lord of the Flies" episodes will periodically recur.

Posted by: ball3991 | March 9, 2010 7:53 PM
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Yes, a particularly bad example of purported "leadership". However, this article misses the most salient and real point as to why the good Officer Graf was not relieved of command long ago.

I agree, a true leader of men or women, especially the captain of a ship, earns that position through mutual respect, not through unbridled intimidation and contempt for those serving in his/her command.

In that regard, any leader in any position reaps what they sew; contempt and intimidation will breed corresponding contempt, whereas professionalism and respect will breed corresponding respect for, and devotion to, the person holding that leadership position.

The really troubling part about this sad and frankly dangerous scenario is, apparently BUT FOR THE CAPTAIN'S WELL-CONNECTED FAMILIAL CONTACTS WITH THE U.S. NAVY, she would have and should have been called on the carpet long ago.

How many other captains of a naval ship could get away with grounding props in a machismo display of purported prowess?

And if one looks at the photo taken from the bridge of the Cowpen approaching the fantail of the McCain, it is quite frankly shocking that any naval officer would put the crews of both ships [not to mention billions of $$ of U.S. hardware] into such a position. [See www.militarycorruption.com]

F=M(A). A simple concept that anyone who has piloted even the smallest boat surely appreciates.

That photo looks more like something out of the cable TV show "Whale Wars" [in which ships have collided at least twice] than something which should ever involve 2 ships of the U.S. Navy.

Posted by: LAWPOOL | March 9, 2010 7:40 PM
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Generally, "diversity" is a reincarnation of affirmative action and it's been brought about for several reasons the most important of which is the impatience and distrust of those who feel they are discriminated against.

The operating model is successful because it, in fact, encourages discrimination against, in particular, white males because it argues that the ratio of various groups in a cohort is all that matters; it never, for instance, operates in reverse, say, to diversify a predominantly black college, the NBA, NFL or any other area where a minority might already dominate.

No doubt it opens doors for some people; it does so by jumping over seniority, experience, and other measures, so that doors are closed to some and opened to others. It operates against the common sense view of what constitutes true merit by focusing on artificial factors like skin color and gender.

What's needed, really, is a re-establishment of a color blind merit system for admissions, promotions, and other advancements. The 'double-dipping' where diversity is not helpful, a goal, or the right thing to do where a minority dominates but is always "best" when whites, males, or the other 'bad' people have labored into positions of power shows directly the hypocrisy and the ugly discrimination and prejudice that is the driving force behind the flowery but deceiving term "diversity."

The NAVY could lead the way. It's easy. Look at seniority, experience, performance reviews, but never color or gender ... and let the cards fall where they may.

Posted by: socks2 | March 9, 2010 7:39 PM
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The final straw was the demand that her photo ID must be in 3D because of her name.

Couldn't stop myself.

Posted by: edbyronadams | March 9, 2010 7:15 PM
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I'm guessing by some of the signatures that several of the comments come from former or retired service personnel - thank you for your service.

I'm also noticing that quite a few suggest that Capt. Graf is a poor leader based solely on her sex & that reflects negatively on ALL women officers. Basically saying that because of Graf's actions, no woman could handle the position. Well, couldn't the reverse then be true, too - if a man handled the position poorly, then all men must, also? Let her be judged only on her actions & if she needs to go, then she goes.

I think folks should also consider that many joining today's Navy & other military branches are just not the same as even 10-15 years ago. Just look at the recruiting ads on TV - have to "convince" mom & dad this is what I want to do. Fifteen years ago there wasn't a big war going on so young people joined up on their own - kids who may not have grown up w/over-involved parents. I just don't think that kids going in today are necessarily ready for the breaking down, building up, abuse, belittling & profanity. They've been pumped full of self-esteem their whole lives. It's just a different generation going in today.

Posted by: PorthosAD | March 9, 2010 7:00 PM
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I served in the Air Force as an E-5 and if this Captain (0-6) would have violated the regs I would have her eagles. Yes, I know her superiors would have tried to place blame on subordinates but that will not work if you follow the regs, document every incidents and take names of witnesses and look for someone similarly situated. People who abuse their power have no place in OUR military. This is a lesson for all high ranking personnel. You are never too big to fall especially when you are dealing with someone who is capable of standing up to you. In todays military there are a lot of smart strong willed young people so treat the troops with respect because whatever your rank is you got there on the back of some low ranking Airman, Sailor, Soldier, or Marine.

Posted by: Moley2 | March 9, 2010 6:42 PM
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For the record, somebody wrote:
"The lady lacked cajones - so she tried to substitute foul language!"
Spanish is my first language so it was funny to see it because cajones = drawers.
I think he/she meant COjones = testicles. It is just one letter, but the meaning is so different.

Posted by: cordobes17 | March 9, 2010 6:36 PM
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And to think now they want to put them on our Nuke submarines.

Posted by: CS1SSret | March 9, 2010 6:31 PM
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The lady lacked cajones - so she tried to substitute foul language!
Only a Patton can make foul language work -and she isn't a Patton!
If anyone thinks a woman can command a Man-O-War - this should give them cause to pause!
Just like in WWII - When it hit the fan - all the tea and crumpts guys got pushed aside.

Posted by: thornegp2626 | March 9, 2010 6:24 PM
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Excellent column by Capt. Schoultz.

I fear that so long as we have civilian (that is to say, politician) control of the military, including politician control of promotions at the general officer level, and no dire threat to our nation's survival, political correctness will continue to deform decisions up and down the chain of command.

While I dislike this fact, I prefer facing it to surrendering our long cherished standard of civilian control of our armed forces, and I prefer it to facing a dire threat to our survival - as I'm sure Capt. Schoultz does as well.

Obviously, the Captain's point is the hope that while preserving our cherished values and enjoying security we can reduce the deformations "PC" introduces into our military, and I heartily concur.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | March 9, 2010 6:13 PM
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From twenty years of service in the United States Army, one simple piece of advice was always in vogue: Lead By Example. Be the example that others will emulate.

Apparently Cpt. Graf never had an example that was worthy of the United States Navy.

But one thing the author asks deserves an answer, "What led her to believe that such behavior was acceptable or would be tolerated?" In her case, one of her superiors felt that her behavior was both acceptable and tolerable, otherwise promotion to the senior ranks and a ship's command was not in her future.

That is where the Navy must look for an answer, not in bumper sticker slogans like "no political correctness in the military".

Posted by: monel7191 | March 9, 2010 6:06 PM
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Concur in all respects with CAPT Schoultz's comments; one huge distinction between the Army's leadership and the Navy's has always been the isolation of sea duty, where a commander is the only authority. See, e.g., the Arnheiter Affair of the late 1960s.
In the Army, on land, a soldier can always wander on down to the IG's office and make a complaint. And because the subordinate commanders at company, battalion, and brigade levels most often work in plain view of their superiors and peers (the division commanders and fellow commanders at the same level) it's comparatively rare to have a situation get quite this far out of hand.
At the same time, I've known some real sadists, who wouldn't hesitate to fillet you on a deep, personal level. I've seen a lieutenant made to stand in front of his soldiers with a dunce cap on in a perverted attempt at humor; seen another stripped to his drawers for a weigh-in at squadron headquarters because the commander thought he looked fat. You never recover from that level of humiliation. We lose good soldiers and leaders when we subject them to this level of abuse - lord knows the ultimate cost of that in training NCO and officer leaders.
Some of those people can be reformed if caught young; others hide as best they can and remain on duty for a long period of time. I can recall one Brigadier who was so vile with his people that a Lieutenant General had to tell him to back off if he didn’t want to read about it on his own efficiency report. The guy retired as a BG, so he was never given a chance to ruin a combat division, but I shudder to think of the collateral damage along the way.
As others have pointed out, the sacred trust we have as officers is to do no harm to the men and women under our command. The nation entrusts its absolute best young souls to us, and those young men and women look to us--by name--to lead them through some tough going. They are not afraid of tough; they welcome challenges in ways that would make their civilian counterparts hold their manhoods cheap. But they did not sign up to be abused, did not volunteer for sadism. And they will vote with their feet.
We are responsible to the country to ensure that we treat the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guardsmen under our command well and fairly. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it's all beer and skittles. There is a time and a place and a method for bringing smoke. Leadership is not for the timid.
The good news is that the military tends to catch the worst of the sadists and martinets and tends to deal with them summarily.

Posted by: emcalister | March 9, 2010 5:57 PM
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Women like Graf are a disgrace to woman period

Posted by: LDTRPT25 | March 9, 2010 5:34 PM
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Library of Congress CC Number 76-47995
Old axioms have way of coming true.

Posted by: tossnokia | March 9, 2010 5:18 PM
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The Navy has tried to foster diversity, but is sensitive to popular scandals propagated in the media that have hurt the services reputation. Unfortunately, the Navy lies or looks the other way in order to not appear as being unfair and discriminatory by the media and activist groups.

Gerald L. Atkinson writes in “The "McNamara-ization" of the U.S. Navy” about how the Navy lied about the conditions surrounding the death of , LT Kara Hultgreen on 25 October 1994 to avoid the appearance of appearing unfair to the Navies first female fighter pilot by blaming her crash on the her F14’s engine when in fact it was pilot error.
Someone later leaked the internal confidential Mishap Investigation Report (MIR) to the media which contradicted the Navy and stated that the pilot initiated the incorrect action which caused the stall that killed her.

It is thus well known in the F-14A community that failure to recover from Hultgreen's predicament can result only from a failure to promptly execute the NATOPS BOLD FACE INSTRUCTIONS for that emergency. LT Hultgreen made a 'rookie' mistake. She did not execute the NATOPS BOLD FACE INSTRUCTIONS for her emergency situation. Instead, she executed piloting technique that was certain to result in a crash.


Honesty and integrity should trump political correctness.

Posted by: moebius22 | March 9, 2010 5:09 PM
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Its not the profanity itself that is so harmful, even though like the author states, it shows a lack of class and discretion, but the demeaning name calling and belittling that can be really damaging. It is damaging not only because being humuliated can cause psychological trauma, but because usually combined with that behavior is a deliberate attempt to damage that person's career and that is also what is really dangerous about this. I doubt she was fair as a supervisor and other's careers probably really suffered unfairly because of it. The bully is very good at turning on the professionalism around the people that they think matter. They are extremely two faced. But they can do a lot of damage emotionally and financially to others to the point of PTSD. Yes, PTSD.

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | March 9, 2010 5:04 PM
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Its not the profanity itself that is so harmful, even though like the author states, it shows a lack of class and discretion, but the demeaning name calling and belittling that can be really damaging. It is damaging not only because being humuliated can cause psychological trauma, but because usually combined with that behavior is a deliberate attempt to damage that person's career and that is also what is really dangerous about this. I doubt she was fair as a supervisor and other's careers probably really suffered unfairly because of it. The bully is very good at turning on the professionalism around the people that they think matter. They are extremely two faced. But they can do a lot of damage emotionally and financially to others to the point of PTSD. Yes, PTSD.

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | March 9, 2010 5:02 PM
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Having served on officer selection boards, it's hard to believe Capt. Graf hoodwinked her reporting seniors for so long. It must be that political correctness has, indeed, got the Navy by the jugular.
Are you serious? I hope you're not in the Navy any more. Maybe you're the one who hoodwinked the Navy, 'cause god knows there were plenty of incompetent white men who were promoted. Did you have anything to do with that? Since you seem to think that promoting undeserving women or minorities is "policial correctness," I'm curious as to what your term is for the myriad promotions of undeserving white men.

Posted by: October10S | March 9, 2010 5:00 PM
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I was a Naval Officer for four years. If I had a dime for every instance that I saw an officer belittle a subordinate, curse or act in a manner that did not bring credit upon him or the naval tradition, I'd be rich. I loved the Navy and had a great time while I was in, but there is a level of tough skin you have to have to succeed. This is particularly true for women. This officer may have taken it too far. I ran into other women officers who had much to be desired as well. But what I don't get is why would this writter focus on this one woman officer and say her promotion must have been about political correctness. The Navy has gotten it wrong wheh promoting lots of people (mostly men). Can it not have simply been an example of an all too common error in judgment? Indeed, I doubt seriously that this woman was promoted because she was female. It's far more likely that she was promoted despite the fact that she was female.

Posted by: October10S | March 9, 2010 4:55 PM
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Having served on officer selection boards, it's hard to believe Capt. Graf hoodwinked her reporting seniors for so long. It must be that political correctness has, indeed, got the Navy by the jugular.

Posted by: nonstopjoe | March 9, 2010 4:47 PM
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For the same reason that the Army had a problem Muslim psychiatrist counselling soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Political correctness does not belong in the military.

Posted by: donbl | March 9, 2010 4:40 PM
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Gee, bring out the midsails and string her up.

Hot tips, anonymous complainers. It is no wonder we are engaged in the longest war since Vietnam.

I don't remember John Wayne in In Harms Way, not being tough.

Nor do I remember Charlton Heston cutting any slack in Midway.

Leadership takes many forms.

The Navy gave her the command. It was her ship If some pasty waistband plebes could not take her abuse they should have just jumped ship.

Phoning in a complaint is like an invitation to mutiny. Why did they hate her.
1. Other crews

2. They were not up to what she demanded.

3. This undermines the command authority and I doubt this guy ever commanded a ship.

Posted by: Midwestmoviewriter | March 9, 2010 4:38 PM
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It's obvious her superiors were blinded by her demure and youthful beauty. I'm convinced this is why they kept on promoting her.

Posted by: edwardlee35 | March 9, 2010 4:27 PM
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The problem with military leadership is that not all officers make for good leaders... they tried their damdest to convince prospects that they have what it takes... but its just like any other profession in the word... some are ment to be leaders....some followers. Leadership gets thrust apon officers ...ready or not... we need a body... a billet to fill... your a lieutenent... your a captain... your leader material. This is a serious mistake. Leadership cant be leared in some book atthe academy... and leadership surely isnt taught in college... unfortunately, the military doesnt have the time to bread leaders or leadership. Incidents like these "Will" happen again.

Posted by: BobbyYarush | March 9, 2010 4:26 PM
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Anonymous phone calls and tattling? In the Navy? To the press and the public?

Why wouldn't anyone conclude that this kind of thing isn't merely jealous and vindictive? He who says things like:

"aggressive and hard charging female?"

Are they LADIES or WOMEN in this Navy?
And who decides what a Lady is? THIS guy?

But of course now the Commander in Chief's nasty little potty mouth, Rahm Emanuel, feels it's okay to undermine the President to boost his own sorry reputation and dislike.

And the Washington Post prints this stuff.
Who'd believe the new Navy? The new Post?
What have we become?

Posted by: whistling | March 9, 2010 4:25 PM
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To: bkhoward1

Interesting how you jumped to a conclusion regarding 'white' males. I never said this nor did I imply such a thing. It just proves how some folks think. Regardless, you can believe what you want but I've witnessed and experienced the political reality in the workplace. Have a nice day.

Posted by: sero1 | March 9, 2010 4:06 PM
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Hey, any woman who can make a sailor blush from cursing? Wow, Google her picture and get a close-up Arghhhh...

Posted by: Obamasnotyamama | March 9, 2010 3:59 PM
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To me this is the crux of what the Captain here is trying to get at. It's not a woman thing it's the selection process. After hearing about the top (meaning position-wise) officers on my son's ship and the lack of experience they have, I see why many Armed Forces personnel (especially non-coms) are down on them. Even though he’s an Officer himself I hear from him constantly "what were they thinking?? I can't believe the pettiness???" And… “If only people knew…”

Posted by: billm32 | March 9, 2010 3:58 PM
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Command at sea is a sacred responsibility. The captain is responsible for safety of the ship and the crew and for fulfililng the mission. To behave in the manner that this captain behaved is a disgrace. She should -- but probably doesn't -- feel ashamed.

The Navy should review how she was promoted. She should have been bounced out of the Service long ago.

Posted by: InTheMiddle | March 9, 2010 3:55 PM
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Pete "Maverick" Mitchell

Tom "Iceman" Kazanski

Holly "Strap-on" Graf

Posted by: hofbrauhausde | March 9, 2010 3:43 PM
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Posted by: sero1 | March 9, 2010 2:39 PM
It's been universal practice in the Federal government for a longtime to seek out and promote women and minorities into leadership positions----------------------It's been a universal and longer standing practice to promote white males just because they looked and acted like the white males who were in the power positions to promote. White males are not always the most qualified either. Being in the good ol' boy network doesn't make you qualified. At least watch 20/20 to see equally qualified or more qualified minority candidates being passed over for their white male counterparts. I know the author offered the possibility of political correctness, but at least acknowledge that political incorrecteness (networks vs. qualifications) still rules the day when it comes to hiring and promoting people.

Posted by: bkhoward1 | March 9, 2010 3:35 PM
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Comrades: Can you say 'Tail-hook' is gender-neutral?

Posted by: rep15 | March 9, 2010 3:33 PM
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Obviously, this had gone on for years. It probably only was detected when her system blinked, and she belittled a superior officer in public.

Ragging on the swabbies has never been against Navy traditions. But to turn your turrets on other officers, especially superior officers, is a No-no.

Abuse your inferiors; be civil to your equals; brown nose your superiors. That's the Navy Way!

Posted by: LeeH1 | March 9, 2010 3:18 PM
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The Time article said: "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."

Color me skeptical - I think her being a USNA graduate, and her family connections, played a bigger part than political correctness did.

Posted by: EinDC | March 9, 2010 3:17 PM
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What would Jack Aubrey or Horatio Hornblower have to say on this?

In those days, there was a time and place for discipline, including the belittling of a subordinate (or much worse) in public. Like another debatable issue, it should be safe, rare and legal.

I don't have direct Navy experience, but sometimes making people feel like sh*t is entirely deserved and productive, whether in or out of the military.

What is the big deal, here? Profanity??? Bah. I would use different language if I were out on a ship alone with a select group of trusties.

If I don't trust my crew, then I have a real problem on my hands, don't I?

Belittling? Sheesh. They are, by definition, smaller than than the Captain. Making someone who shirks or fails their duty is normal, whether you're on a ship or not. It's part of the motivational process. Are we becoming a nation of sissies?

I know our military works hard to protect us. I also know that maintaining high standards includes toughening them up. It's a fine line, and it's ok to claim that a commander crossed that line, but to take away the tool of belittlement seems to sterilize the situation to the point of incapacitation.

Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: public-washingtonpost-com | March 9, 2010 3:15 PM
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Profane and abusive towards subordinates? Sounds like she would make a much better XO than CO.

Posted by: ozpunk | March 9, 2010 3:10 PM
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Isn't that Kevin Bacon?

Posted by: MNMNT | March 9, 2010 3:09 PM
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I wonder if she's as was as bad as Wolf Larson or Rham Emanuel?

Posted by: 45upnorth | March 9, 2010 3:01 PM
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It's been universal practice in the Federal government for a longtime to seek out and promote women and minorities into leadership positions. Senior managers are evaluated on how diverse their staffs are, especially in supervisory and management roles. Our politicians have mandated such hiring and promotional policies. Many of these people are not the most qualified or competent for these positions but when a big boss’ job or bonus is at stake, well, it’s clear what happens. Many workers often suffer at the hands of such leaders, as well by the resulting abuse. The public, of course, may also pay the consequences because of such incompetency. In civilian agencies these problems may be successfully dealt with by union grievances. That’s not a remedy, unfortunately, in the military. Shame on the Navy for allowing such a scoundrel to command a ship. Who will be held accountable? Sure.

Posted by: sero1 | March 9, 2010 2:39 PM
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This is "same ol" with the USN which needs to get with the program on real leadership and walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

Believe me, the Navy uses and abuses its people. There must be a better way!

Posted by: viewpoint3 | March 9, 2010 2:22 PM
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One more Navy officer who thought "Mr. Roberts" was a training video. Wonder if she waxed her rubber tree?

Posted by: nuke41 | March 9, 2010 2:17 PM
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I read the link to TIME; she's just a common bully.

Posted by: edismae | March 9, 2010 2:09 PM
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Thank you Captain Schoultz,

One of the first chapters in the Bluejackets Manual, on leadership, states "Praise in Public; Correct in Private". Every enlisted recruit in the Navy has to read this and I expect every midshipman at the naval academy is responsible for heeding the same. When the chiefs are swearing very often they are correcting the men and women in their section, correction that could save a life if it is to correct a breach of safety doing their jobs, that is quite different from an officer abusing the enlisted crew like that. That is just inexcusable, and very unprofessional. Thank you.

Capt. Holly Graf if that is what she did ( I read the other article you pointed us to), deserved to be removed from her command.

Posted by: screwjob11 | March 9, 2010 2:02 PM
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Don't assume 'Political Correctness' (what does that actually mean?) when 'Incompetent Management' is available.

It's inept, lazy management.

Posted by: JkR- | March 9, 2010 1:54 PM
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Well done, Captain. Could she have been over-compensating to "fit in" to a male-dominated structure? Or, is she simply a poor officer and naturally abusive? She did obtain the rank of Captain, so was she promoted incorrectly so not to appear as sexist should she have been passed-over? In any case, the correct call was made to remove her from command. Who knows what damage she did to morale, readiness and encourging enlisted crew members to disrepect other officers.

Posted by: jckdoors | March 9, 2010 1:45 PM
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I wonder if the failure to rein in Captain Graf is related to the failure to rein in Captain Hasan, the Fort Hood mass-murderer.

Both might have a nexus in the political-correctness fad that has no place in our military.

Posted by: spamsux1 | March 9, 2010 1:39 PM
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Captain, your viewpoint on this issue is very honest. Having been involved with the navy for over ten years as an enlisted man and civilian employee, I also experienced the reticence to relieve commanding officers, at shore commands as well as sea commands. I think your suspicion that a change in this practice will be positive for the Navy is correct. I know that for me and others serving under an officer of low character who seemed immune from correction was demoralizing. In regard to the subject of cursing, yes, this is/was almost a Navy tradition, but from the ranks not from officers. As a young lad, from my first day in boot camp, I entered into intense emersion into blue language. However, the training came from chiefs and other senior petty officers, i.e., old salts, not from officers. In my experience, Navy officers could have been accused of remoteness, not familiarity. I can’t really remember officers, regardless of their temperament or mental stability, that I wouldn’t have considered gentlemen. During my career, I also worked for the Army for about the same amount of time, and I found the behavior of that service’s officers to be coarser than that of Navy officers. I assume that it is probably the difference in mission and means to execute those missions that primarily accounts for any difference in leadership style, not moral superiority.

Posted by: csintala79 | March 9, 2010 12:35 PM
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Good column. Perhaps military officers should also be trained to deliberately divorce their feelings and prejudices about their subordinates from their conclusions about the validity and accuracy of the information/suggestions which these soldiers provide.

Posted by: byron11 | March 9, 2010 11:41 AM
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