|Holly Ann Graf|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1985-2010|
|Commands held||USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81)
USS Cowpens (CG-63)
|Battles/wars||Operation Iraqi Freedom|
|Awards||Legion of Merit
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal (with one gold star).
Holly Ann Graf is a retired Captain in the United States Navy. Until January 2010 she was commanding officer of the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG-63), a major surface combatant vessel of the fleet. She was the first woman to command a cruiser in the history of the U.S. Navy. Earlier, she had been the first woman in the U.S. Navy to command a destroyer when she served as skipper of the guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81). Her personal decorations include the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star, among others. Graf was relieved of command for abusive behavior unbecoming of an officer and was featured in Time magazine as a female Captain Bligh. The US Navy forced Graf into early retirement in 2012, but allowed her to do so at her current rank of Captain and under "honorable circumstances."
Graf grew up in Simsbury, Connecticut to a family with a long history of naval service. Her father is a retired Captain and Submarine Officer in the U.S. Navy, and her sister, Robin L. Graf, is currently a Rear Admiral (LH) in the Navy Reserve. Graf graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1985. Most of her colleagues at the time believed she was well on her way to flag rank.
Graf's previous billets include Auxiliaries Officer and First Division Officer in USS Puget Sound (AD-38). Graf was also the Weapons Officer in USS Ainsworth (FF-1090) and executive officer in USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54). She was subsequently promoted to commander and served as commanding officer of USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81) from 20 April 2002 to 6 February 2004. During this deployment, she participated in the opening stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She was promoted to captain in 2007. Graf then served as the assistant operations officer of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) carrier strike group. From 20 March 2008 to 13 January 2010, Graf was the commanding officer of USS Cowpens, based in Yokosuka, Japan.
Relieved of command
On 13 January 2010, Graf was relieved of command of USS Cowpens by Rear Admiral Kevin Donegan, commander of Carrier Strike Group Five, as non-judicial punishment stemming from an admiral's mast. The punishment followed an investigation which verified allegations of cruelty and maltreatment of her crew, and conduct unbecoming an officer.
Graf was slated to take a job at the Office of Information, Plans and Strategy (N3/N5) at the Pentagon after leaving the Cowpens. However, after losing her command, Graf was reassigned to the Naval Surface Warfare Center's laboratory in Dahlgren, Virginia.
A board of inquiry composed of three admirals held hearings regarding her conduct in November 2010. On December 3, 2010, the board of inquiry recommended that Graf be separated from the Navy and receive a retirement under general circumstances so she could be allowed to retire with the rank of Captain. General discharges (or a "General" characterization to retiring commissioned officers) are given to service members whose performance is satisfactory but is marked by a considerable departure in duty performance and conduct expected of military members. On January 6, 2012, this decision was reversed and Graf will be allowed to receive an honorable service characterization as a retired officer, as it was, "...determined that her conduct did not rise to a level sufficient to warrant the characterization of her service as less than honorable."
Graf's awards include:
|Command at Sea insignia||Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge|
|Surface Warfare insignia|
|Legion of Merit||Bronze Star||Defense Meritorious Service Medal|
- Thompson, Mark, "The Rise and Fall of a Female Captain Bligh", Time, 3 March 2010.
- Slavin, Erik, "Navy to let ousted captain of Yokosuka-based ship to get 'honorable' retirement", Stars and Stripes, 8 January 2012.
- "Rear Admiral Robin L. Graf, Deputy Commander, Navy Recruiting Command". US Navy Biography. Department of the Navy.
- Thompson, Mark (2010-03-11). "Sexism and the Navy's Female Captain Bligh (published in print as "The Sea Witch")". Time.
- Thompson, Mark (March 3, 2010). "The Rise and Fall of a Female Captain Bligh". Time. Retrieved March 18, 2010.
- cowpensvets.org (2010). "CAPT Holly Graf - United States Navy - COWPENS' Tenth Commanding Officer". cowpensvets.org. Retrieved March 18, 2010.
- Carter, David, J. (January 16, 2010). "Admiral relieves Cowpens captain". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved March 18, 2010.
- Dave Larter (November 29, 2010). "Graf board of inquiry to convene Tuesday". Navy Times. Gannett Government Media Corporation.
- Dave Larter (December 3, 2010). "Panel: Graf should get general discharge". Navy Times. Gannett Government Media Corporation.
- Sam Fellman (January 6, 2012). "Fired Cowpens CO to get 'honorable' retirement". Navy Times. Gannett Government Media Corporation. Retrieved January 16, 2012.