Charges of “Cruelty” by a Second Navy Female Skipper Substantiated

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Navy Cmdr. Etta "CJ" Jones

Last year, we wrote about Navy Captain Holly Graf, and how she was found guilty of “cruelty and maltreatment” of her crew aboard the cruiser USS Cowpens. One year ago Saturday, a panel of three admirals recommended she be booted from the service. That recommendation apparently has been sitting on Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ desk for 12 months with no action taken. We asked the Navy about Graf’s fate Thursday, but got no answers.

We called the Navy because we couldn’t believe a nearly identical case has surfaced involving a second female Navy CO. Sure, many more men command the Navy’s warships than women, and many more are relieved of command. But the parallels between Graf’s case and that of Commander Etta C. Jones, former captain of the amphibious warship USS Ponce, are striking: the rare charge that each violated Article 93 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice — barring cruelty and maltreatment of subordinates – was substantiated. Jones’ ship was in the Mediterranean on April 23 – flying helicopter missions in support of the war against Libya – when she was suddenly relieved of command. Here are excerpts (click on them to enlarge) from a Navy inspector general’s report, obtained by the Virginian-Pilot newspaper, explaining why:

For each of these allegations, and several others found to be substantiated, the following disposition was listed:

But that’s only part of the answer. Jones and Graf didn’t parachute onto the decks of the Ponce and Cowpens unwise in the sea service’s ways and lore. They had spent years in the Navy, supposedly learning to be good skippers, before assuming command. Then they watched their careers self-destruct. Hard to believe they were the only ones responsible.