Navy Fires Commander of Test Squadron over DUI

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An EA-18G Growler launches.
An EA-18G Growler assigned to the "Dust Devils" of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 31 launches from Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Point Mugu, Aug. 23, 2022. (U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Drew Verbis)

The Navy has announced that it has relieved the commanding officer of a China Lake-based testing squadron of her command over a drunk driving arrest.

Cmdr. Cassidi Reese, the commanding officer of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 31, was relieved Nov. 17 over "a loss of confidence in her ability to command," the Navy announced in a statement released Friday.

According to the service, the loss of confidence was the result of a Nov. 4, 2022, arrest and charges for driving while intoxicated at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California -- the base where her squadron is located.

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In its statement, the sea service said that it holds its commanding officers "to high standards of personal and professional conduct ... and the Navy holds them accountable when they fall short of those standards."

Reese had served as the VX-31's commanding officer since March 2022, the Navy said. According to a 2020 Navy biography, Reese spent extensive time with the squadron -- nicknamed "The Dust Devils" -- as a pilot. Her first shore tour was with the unit, and she returned in November 2017 as a department head before moving to the advanced weapons lab in February 2019, and finally becoming the squadron's chief test pilot in July 2020.

According to that biography, Reese had more than 2,900 flight hours in 25 different airframes.

Reese is the second commanding officer the Navy has relieved this month. On Nov. 8, the service announced it had relieved Capt. Simon McKeon, commanding officer of the cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), over a loss of confidence as well. A Navy spokesperson told Military.com at the time that his relief was the result of personal misconduct and that an investigation was ongoing.

Cmdr. Christopher Putre, VX-31's current chief test pilot, will assume command of the unit while Reese is temporarily reassigned to Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, the Navy said in its statement.

Lt. Cmdr. Devin Arneson, a spokeswoman for the Navy, said that the service had relieved 17 commanding officers to date in 2022 -- 16 from the Navy and 1 from the Marine Corps.

Arneson stressed that the reliefs are not related and occurred "for a number of different reasons."

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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