Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Horrible Holly Hangs On

After a trip to the left coast, we've been playing catch-up in recent days, so blogging has been light. Still, there were a couple of stories--call them unfinished business--that caught or eyes.

The first involves disgraced former astronaut and naval officer Lisa Nowak. She officially retired from the Navy last week after 26 years of service, and more than four years after she destroyed her career, by assaulting a romantic rival at the Orlando International Airport.

It was an incident made in tabloid heaven. Separated from her husband, Nowak had an affair with Navy Commander (and fellow astronaut) Bill Oefelein. But Oefelein apparently grew tired of the relationship and began dating Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman. That prompted Nowak to drive non-stop from her home in Houston to Orlando (with a supply of astronaut diapers in the car), to confront Captain Shipman. Encountering the Air Force officer at an airport parking lot, Captain Nowak sprayed pepper spry into Shipman's car before trying to escape. When police arrested her a short time later, they found a number of items in Nowak's car that suggested plans for a possible kidnapping--or worse.

Needless to say, that little incident ended Nowak's NASA career. She was booted from the astronaut corps a few weeks later, and resumed her Navy career, serving as a staff officer at the service's Naval Air Training Command in Corpus Christi. But Nowak still faced military discipline for her misdeeds and last week, she learned her fate, just as her retirement was announced. While the former astronaut will be allowed to retire from the Navy, she will receive an "other-than-honorable" discharge and be reduced in rank, to Commander. With that type of discharge, Nowak will be ineligible for most forms of veterans benefits and the rank reduction will cost her thousands of dollars a year in retirement pay.

Her retirement becomes effective 1 September. It is believed that Nowak is already on terminal leave, and has left her post in Corpus Christi.

Announcing Nowak's fate, the Navy said her conduct "fell well short of what is expected of navy officers," and she demonstrated a complete disregard for the well-being of another service member. A Naval board believed her conduct justified the OTH discharge (the most severe form of administrative separation) and the reduction in rank. Individuals with that type of discharge find it virtually impossible to secure employment with the federal government or defense contractors. However, Nowak could still earn a significant income if she signs a book or movie deal to tell her story.

Yet, while the Navy (seemingly) can't wait to get Lisa Nowak out the gate, one of her Annapolis class mates--fired for more severe offenses--appears to be living a charmed life. We refer to Captain "Horrible Holly" Graf, the female skipper who was fired 18 months ago for "cruelty and maltreatment" of her crew while in command of the USS Cowpens.

As reminds us, a Navy investigation determined that Graf pulled a similar stunt a few years earlier, as CO of the USS Winston Churchill, a guided missile destroyer. Leaving a port in the Mediterranean, Graf verbally abused the ship's navigator (an exchange officer from the Royal Navy) while heading out to sea at full speed. When the Churchill scraped the bottom of the harbor, Graf ordered the ship's log falsified, a move she repeated onboard the Cowpens, when the Aegis cruiser hit a whale.

After losing command of the Cowpens, a board of inquiry recommended that Graf receive a general discharge and be retired from service, with no reduction in grade. But she's still on active duty a year later, and the Navy appears to be in no hurry to get rid of her. Both Glenn MacDonald at MilitaryCorruption and defense blogger Susan Katz Keating have been wondering the same thing: why is Holly Graf being allowed to linger on active duty, soaking up an O-6's pay and full benefits?

They believe family connections have something to do with it; "Horrible Holly" is the younger sister of Navy Rear Admiral Robin Graf, commander of the Navy's Recruiting Command. As Ms. Keating notes, Admiral Graf recently fired the CO of her recruiting district in Nashville for "unprofessional conduct." Fair enough, and the Navy has certainly been on a roll of late, dismissing more than 15 commanders for misconduct or poor performance so far this year. It's a fair bet that most of those officers who are retirement-eligible will leave active duty in the coming months.

Which brings us back to the obvious question: how can the Navy justify Holly Graf's continued presence on active duty? Captain Graf should have been on the retired list more than a year ago, and missing a stripe to boot.


Vigilis said...

Holly Graf's lingering does not bode well for the morale of the U.S. Submarine Force.

Admiral Caldwell: "there's going to be a lot of pressure to make sure one of the first women gets command" to a mixed crowd of 1120s about a year ago.

Unknown said...

I don't think the Navy would ever give Holly Graf command of another vessel--even a garbage scow. But you've got to wonder: why is she being allowed to remain on active duty?

My only guess is that Holly wants to hang on until she can secure something with a defense contractor. Right now, she's a bit radioactive for anyone to hire, but with a little more time, Horrible Holly can probably land a gig with someone. If I'm not mistaken, she's currently biding her time at Dahlgren, which is Contractor Central for the surface fleet. I'm sure she's on her best behavior, schmoozing with civilian execs who might give her a job in the near future.

In the meantime, she keeps padding that pension by another 2.5% a year. And with her older sister providing top cover, Holly can probably hang on for a full 30. But she's actually reached that point, since her years at the academy count towards her total military service, but don't increase her pension.

ppjakaJim said...

"Graf ordered the ship's log falsified, a move she repeated onboard the Cowpens, when the Aegis cruiser hit a whale."

In the Navy I was in that would have resulted in a Courts Martial and a BCD.

chief torpedoman said...

At the very least it should have resulted in a courts martial for the QM who shuold have refused to do and when it was done without him, then mail copies of the original to the press.

Susan Katz Keating said...

I am coming into this thread quite late in the game - but I popped in through someone visiting my blog from this post, and.... yadda yadda.

Anyway... one of my "regulars," the Old Mossback, sent me a series of stories about retired Capt. "Polly Grief," who finally was able to tell her sister, "Raven," that she achieved a victory.

"Raven, despite what you think about my employment at Disneyworld, no matter how hard you try, unlike me you will never command a submarine squadron"...........Polly

The saga is here, for those of you who could use a snicker or two.
: D

Kat Daffodil said...

I am glad I found your blog. I was doing web searches on Lisa Nowak. It was terrible to see her go down in flames like that, and Bill O. is a cad as far as I am concerned. But- she still should have left Colleen alone - of course - obvious. No one wins in that situation - Colleen and Bill will always be haunted by this. I was just trying to find out the rest of the story for Lisa - hopefully a focus on her children and putting life back together. Very interesting blog - glad to be here. Had no idea about Holly - but I study psychology for fun and I also want to know the rest of the story. BTW - dad was a Colonel in the USAF - a pilot - very accomplished, mom was an Aide-de-Camp (did I spell that right) for a the 101st AirBorne (for a General). I grew up on base till I was 15. I never joined - but have an interest and sympathy for those who did/do. All the best - Daffodil

Kat Daffodil said...

I apologize if this came in twice - glad I found your blog. Kat Daffodil

Unknown said...

Horrible Holly an asst principle in Kenosha Wisconsin ? (Tremper hs)....mmmm

Unknown said...


I was intrigued by your comment..and horrified that Holly Graf might be working with children. Turns out the teacher in Kenosha is a different Holly Graf. Horrible Hollly, USN (Ret) is running something called Sailing LLC out of the D.C. area. Firm offers "premier charters" to the Chesapeake Bay and Abaco Islands. Can't find a website, so it's probably just Holly and her sailboard. How'd you like to go on a charter with her? I'd rather set sail with Captain Bligh.