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Saturday, March 15, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Whidbey NAS officer is relieved of duty

Seattle Times staff reporter

A decorated Navy commodore in charge of reconnaissance and spy-plane squadrons at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station has been relieved of duty after a Navy investigation found that he falsified his flight training file, the Navy said yesterday.

Capt. Charles P. Martello was charged with falsifying an official government document and conduct unbecoming an officer. His chief of staff, Cmdr. Thomas J. Doughty, was also relieved of duty for alleged dereliction of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer in relation to the record tampering.

On Thursday the men went before a Navy hearing, known as an "admiral's mast," led by Vice Adm. Michael Malone, commander of Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. The matter will now go to the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii and to the Pentagon for further review, said Cmdr. Ed Buclatin, spokesman for Commander Naval Air Forces in San Diego. Martello and Doughty could not be reached for comment yesterday. The men have the right to appeal.

Navy officials would not say how Martello's flight-training file was altered. Flight-training files include educational records, flight-school grades, flight-training records, physical-fitness reports and swimming and survival qualifications.

The officers have been reassigned to other duties at Whidbey Island. Though they have not been asked to resign and could be eligible for other commands, a negative finding at admiral's mast generally marks the end of an officer's career, making promotion all but impossible, say those knowledgeable with the proceedings.

Martello, whose rank is one step below rear admiral, was commander of Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 10, overseeing about 2,000 personnel and 45 P3C and EP-3 aircraft.

The P3C is used in reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare. The EP-3 is an electronic surveillance aircraft.

Martello took over the unit in August 2001. He enlisted in the Navy in 1973. According to his Navy biography, he was selected for the Navy Enlisted Scientific Education Program and earned chemistry and biology degrees at the University of Missouri. He was commissioned as an ensign in 1980.

He served aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt during the Persian Gulf War and later served on the staff of the chief of naval operations at the Pentagon.

His decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Ray Rivera: 206-464-2926 or rayrivera@seattletimes.com

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