March 28, 2016; WJXT-TV (Jacksonville, FL)

Retired Maj. Gen. Charlie Fletcher, a member of the WWP Advisory Council with more than 30 years of military experience, has been appointed the Wounded Warrior Project’s interim COO. The board is continuing to search for a new CEO in the wake of the firings of former CEO Steve Nardizzi and Al Giordano, who was Nardizzi’s COO.

John Melia, the founder of Wounded Warrior Project, believes Fletcher is a good choice. “He’s a man of character. You don’t get to be a general officer in the Army and command troops the way he has without begin a good man and a good leader.”

“I think he’ll immediately steady the ship. I think he’s got some significant work to do when it comes to his senior leaders and determining who stays and who goes, but you know, I put my trust that he’ll do the right thing and that he’ll carry out the mission,” Melia said.

WWP Board Chair Anthony Odierno’s announcement to employees reads, in part, “[Fletcher’s] impressive background and experience in both the military and private sector makes him uniquely well positioned to lead our organization while the board continues its comprehensive search for a permanent CEO.”

But whistleblower Erick Millette worries about Fletcher’s insider status. “I think it’s great they recognize they need senior military leadership within the executive level at Wounded Warrior Project,” Millette said. “However, bringing someone on from the advisory board concerns me because that person may have biased views.”

Millette believes that WWP needs outside leadership for real change, especially in the next 12–18 months. He points out that Odierno, who is leading up the interim CEO team as board chairman, is also an insider. “Once they have a new executive team in place, I really think that needs to happen, so they don’t head down that same cultural path that they are on.”

“We’ve all seen the leaked emails. We’ve all seen the tantrums like a toddler stomping around when you don’t get your way on social media. There is no hiding that lack of professionalism,” Millette said. “That’s the kind of culture that breeds through Wounded Warrior Project, and it’s going to stay that way until you remove it.”

Millette hits on an important point. Even given that both the CEO and COO roles are interim at the organization at this point, will a group of insiders be prepared to address the cultural issues that often underwrite this kind of organizational break with constituents? —Ruth McCambridge