Navy Fires NAF El Centro Commander

Navy Lt. Devon Jones, left, runs towards the PAVE LOW that rescued him in January 1991 during Operation Desert Storm. The 20th SOS conducted the first combat search and rescue since the Vietnam War.  Air Force photo

The Navy has fired the commander of Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif. -- a Navy pilot who was shot down over Iraq during the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Capt. Devon Jones was relieved as base commander by Rear Adm. Dixon R. Smith, commander of Navy Region Southwest, "due to loss of faith and confidence in his ability to command," according to an official Navy statement. Service officials have offered no other details explaining why Jones was relieved of command.

However, the official statement does mention the Navy's focus on "treating shipmates with dignity and respect" hinting that Jones' ouster could be connected to a personnel issue.

"The Navy expects its leaders to provide principled and highly ethical leadership, stressing discipline, accountability, and the importance of treating shipmates with dignity and respect," the Navy said in a statement issued by Smith. "It is of paramount importance to the Navy that even the appearance of impropriety by leadership is unacceptable, and all personnel must conduct themselves in a manner beyond reproach."

Jones will be assigned to Commander, Naval Air Forces "until the outcome of this issue is reached," the Navy said.

Jones was named commander at El Centro two years ago. In a story Monday, the San Diego Union Tribune reported that Jones released a statement through Navy public affairs that suggests his situation is not as serious as it sounds.

"I'm proud of what we've accomplished in the last two years and, at the same time, I'm very excited about the future," Jones said in the emailed statement forwarded by a Navy public affairs officer.

On Jan. 21, 1991, then-Lt. Devon Jones' F-14A Tomcat was hit by an SA-2 surface-to-air missile near Al Asad airbase in Iraq. Jones was rescued by the Air Force's 20th Special Operations Squadron in what was the first combat search and rescue since the Vietnam War.

His radar intercept operator, Lt. Larry Slade, was captured and held as a prisoner of war until March 3, when he was released.

According to his official biography, Jones did three tours as an F-14 pilot, including his time with Strike Fighter Squadron 103 in USS Saratoga in the Red Sea for Operation Desert Shield/Storm. He also served as an instructor pilot with Strike Fighter Squadron 101, and as a Landing Signals Officer with Carrier Air Wing 7 in USS George Washington for Operations Deny Flight and Southern Watch.

Jones is a graduate of the Navy Fighter Weapons School, more commonly known as Top Gun.

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