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A (potentially) Disgraced Angel (Updated)

by Ward Carroll on October 31, 2008

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The Blue Angels will fly the balance of their 2008 season with five jets instead of six because of pending administrative action against one of the team’s pilots. Marine Corps Capt. Tyson Dunkelberger, the Blue Angel’s spokesman, allowed that the pilot had been removed from flying duties for an “inappropriate relationship” with a female member of the demonstration team. Dunkelberger would not, however, identify the rank or squadron billet of either party involved, citing legal reasons.

The five-plane demonstration will employ a diamond formation without the “slot” position, but Dunkelberger was quick to point out that the loss of Blue Angel No. 4 in the show did not necessarily mean that the pilot has flown in that position during this season is involved in the inappropriate relationship. The mystery will be short-lived, however, as the Blue’s are scheduled to perform a practice show today in San Antonio minus the flyer in question and his absence will be obvious to anyone in attendance holding a show program.

The Blue Angels have dealt with other personnel issues in recent years. In 2000 Blue Angel No. 2, a Marine Corps officer, was removed from the team for having another “inappropriate relationship” with the team’s female public affairs officer. And last year, Lcdr. Kevin Davis, Blue Angel No. 6, flew his F/A-18 into the ground and was killed during a show near Beaufort, South Carolina. In each of these cases a pilot who had been on the team the year prior was pulled out of a fleet squadron and returned to the Blue Angels so that the team could fly the balance of the season with a full six-jet complement. Dunkelberger stated that there weren’t enough shows left to justify that sort of effort in the current case. After the San Antonio shows this weekend, the Blue Angels will perform at the Kennedy Space Center and then close their season with two shows at their home base in Pensacola, Florida.

Updated Nov. 1: This from a discussion thread at the Blue Angel’s hometown paper, The Pensacola News Journal:

“calfan wrote: It was two officers…#4 Maj. Clint Harris and Lt. Gretchen Doan. They are both officers…they both know better. Clint flew back Sunday in his jet, minus the #4. Didn’t fly in the airshow or practice. He’s married with kids. She’s not. Bottom line is these are two adults who made a huge mistake/decision, broke a major rule, ruined their careers, humiliated their families, got kicked off the team…they will have this hanging over their heads and following them around forever. Boss did the right thing…”

The allegations in this post are unconfirmed but the tenor of it makes me think this person knows what he or she is talking about, including the use of the term “Boss” to refer to the Blue Angel’s commanding officer. And if the IDs are correct, then in fact (and in spite of Capt. Dunkelberger’s insistence to the contrary) it was the slot pilot who’s been removed, which makes things much easier in terms of working the five-plane show in that all the remaining pilots are flying in the same positions they’ve flown all year.

And making Maj. Harris fly back from his final show without the number on his jet his something right out of King Arthur’s Court or a Hollywood scriptwriter’s fantasy. (Remember the opening of the TV series “Branded” back in the day?) Who said the spirit of Naval Aviation is dead?

Ward

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

MattM October 31, 2008 at 3:29 pm

I don’t understand why the guy is disciplined and the gal is not. If it was inappropriate for him – was it okay for her?

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unmannedanimal October 31, 2008 at 3:40 pm

disregard that, i read the wrong parts of the post. my mistake, can’t find the preview or edit buttons.

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Grigori November 1, 2008 at 1:19 am

My mom was in the Navy in the early 80s doing weather reports or some such and she happened to see the Blue Angels walking down the hallway toward her in their flight suits. She fainted dead away. (Says that’s the only time it ever happened.) And she says she’s not the only Navy woman to do that.
I think we could forgive these men their indiscretions.

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Old Crusty Chief November 1, 2008 at 4:08 am

We do a great job teaching young men and women to fly planes and all the other professional skills necessary at the sharp end of the spear. Where we so often fail is in teaching them to be adults.
One of my mentors often says that judgment is the last character trait to develop in a man. Another says that a big ego out of balance with humility is the source of such problems as with our fallen Angel.
No excuses for the malefactors; they knew the regs. An inability to check the urge of one’s genitalia is a character flaw. Give them both the boot, but, Lord help us all, recognize WHY this is a sort of serial CFIT among our Sailors.
Cheers,
Chief B.

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Vitor November 1, 2008 at 2:07 pm

Its like driving a Ferrari and not being allowed to bang the chicks that will fall all over you.

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LangleyAirshowFan November 1, 2008 at 3:22 pm

The issue is not so much the relationship, but the fact that it was adultery on both sides.

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T19 November 2, 2008 at 10:46 am

Two adults, not in a Superior/Subordinate work relationship have sex… sounds like a personal issue not a work issue, sounds rather puritan to me

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Old Crusty Chief November 2, 2008 at 12:38 pm

Re: T19
Throwing out the “BS” flag.
We do not pick and choose which regs to follow because pf our whims and desires. They knew the rules and chose to break them. Discipline accordingly.
Evidently there are aspects of their duties that the commander determined to be of a nature where fraternization between the two would be prejudicial to good order and discipline. (The issue of adultery is discrete from this, is difficult to prove vis-a-vis Article 32, and rarely pursued.)
Protestations to the contrary, it is never “just sex” between consenting adults when dealing with a small unit — most especially when one of the servicemembers is married. These relationships impair the judgment of those involved toward the other in a military environment and when they end they rarely end so amicably that they return to status quo ante.
Seems to me that this is less about Puritanism than the practical matter of preserving good order and discipline within the unit so that it can reliably go out and accomplish its mission.
Cheers,
Chief B.

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Assbestos November 2, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Regs be dammed. Morality is personal decision not a federal one. Let the wife take it up with a divorce lawyer, because it’s her business not the Navy’s.

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Airshowfan November 2, 2008 at 2:21 pm

To the folks stating “two adults, no big deal” remember that as a show squadron and the Navy’s premier Jet Demo team, the Blues are representative of all of the active duty and reserve Sailors and Marines in the Dept of the Navy.
When you join a squadron like this, you are expected to conduct yourself above “normal” people inside of the service or out, and not to do anything that would shame the squadron or the service. Actions like this, that are against clearly stated regulations, is unforgivable.

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marc November 3, 2008 at 12:59 am

I have some great pics of the Angels in SF. how would I send them to the angesl hdqts in Pennsacola

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coolhand77 November 3, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Kliffhngr, one problem with your comparison, it wasn’t an officer and an enlisted, it was a Major and a Lieutenant…

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thebronze November 4, 2008 at 2:32 am

What an idiot! She isn’t even good looking!
I always thought the rule was: make sure you have an affair with a woman better looking than your wife, in case she leaves you afterward…

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James November 4, 2008 at 11:47 pm

Both Maj. Harris and Lt. Doane were notably absent during the Lackland/Kelly San Antonio Demo.
The reason is now apparent.

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Sherri November 6, 2008 at 11:36 pm

Here is an article from today’s PNJ…
Blues’ hearing today
Travis Griggs

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Sherri November 7, 2008 at 8:27 pm

Both officers found guilty…won’t return to the Blues…here is an article from today’s PNJ…
Two Blue Angels team members removed from duty for an “inappropriate relationship” were found guilty today in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Rear Adm. Mark Guadagnini, chief of Naval air training, presided over the hearing that began Thursday, said Lt. j.g. Brett Dawson, a spokesman for the Naval Air Training Command.
The Navy has not identified the man and woman. Dawson would only say one was in the Navy; the other was a Marine.
Their future with the Navy is uncertain. The case has been turned over to the Navy Personnel Command.
On Oct. 30, Navy officials announced that a male and female member of the Blue Angels

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REBECCA November 9, 2008 at 10:37 pm

IF I HAD TO JUDGE THIS CASE. WE ARE LOOKING AT 2 INTEL PEOPLE WHO BY THE WAY SHOULD BETTER. NO 1. PEOPLE ESP LIL KIDS LOOK UP TO THESE PILOTS AND SET AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT THE BLUE ANGELS ARE. 2ND. PAO SHOULD HAD KEPT HER SELF AWAY FROM A MARRIED MAN. GETTING INVOLVED WITH MARRIED MAN IS JUST WRONG. THEY WILL GET WHAT THEY DESREVED. THEY LET DOWN A LOT OF KIDS INCLUDING ME. I AM GREATFUL THAT BOSS DID WHAT HE HAD TO DO. IF CLINT WANTED TO HAVE SEX HE SHOULD HAVE PERSONALLY CALLED HIS WIFE AND ASKED HER TO SPEND THE NIGHT WITH HIM. I WISH I CAN BE IN THAT COURT AND WATCH BOTH FALL FROM GRACE! I WAS GLAD TO HEAR THAT MERLIN WAS NOT INVOLVED. `
BECCA
USN

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Stas May 10, 2009 at 12:17 am

I could care less about who did what. My question is how much does it cost the gov’t (meaning private citizens)to fork out the cost for the Blue Angels? There is still people in our fine country who are still homeless years later because of Hurricane Katrina…Let’s spend the money used on the Blue Angels for more worthy causes.

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Mr. Foo December 27, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Well, disappointing, but not too surprising. As they say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and when you find a drop tank half-buried in the dirt, you can bet the plane passed somewhere within missile range overhead.

How I know: his mother was showing (*groups* of) guys her b**bs in 1st grade, and was sent to private school from Jr. High on after, supposedly, some dude was crawling in her window after dark.

I know, because I "dated" her in grade school.

What I don't know is who's fault it was; she was like the 4th or 5th of about seven kids and all the rest were brothers.

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