Cmdr. Thomas O'Dowd ()
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O'Dowd has logged more than 650 hours in the Super Hornet. (Mass Communication Specialist Airman Jonathan Davi)
SAN DIEGO — The commander of the Navy's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet training squadron was fired Wednesday, four days after he was jailed on suspicion of driving under the influence at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.
Navy officials said Cmdr. Thomas O'Dowd, 44, was relieved of command for "a loss of confidence in his ability to lead his squadron," according to a statement issued by Naval Air Forces in Coronado. Officials provided no other details on the reason.
The decision to fire O'Dowd, who had taken command of Strike Fighter Squadron 122 in July, was made by Capt. Hal Murdock, who commands Strike Fighter Wing-Pacific.
At about 3 a.m. on Nov. 10, according to the Kings County Sheriff's Department, a Navy uniformed security officer stopped O'Dowd, who was driving a gray Lexus RX300 SUV near a bachelor's quarters.
The security guard spotted O'Dowd driving erratically and called for the sheriff's department, which has jurisdiction over the naval station in the Central California Valley. "He was driving and showing an erratic driving pattern, and that's what caused the security guard to pull over the vehicle," Assistant Sheriff Brian Wheat said Friday.
A sheriff's deputy arrived "and did a field sobriety test," which prompted the deputy to arrest the O'Dowd, Wheat said.
O'Dowd was taken to the Kings County jail, where he was processed, administered an alcohol blood test and placed into a "sobering tank" for six hours before he was released with a citation to appear in Kings County Superior Court, Wheat said. It wasn't clear what O'Dowd's blood-alcohol content was, and it usually takes several weeks to get the results, he added. A DUI infraction is considered a criminal misdemeanor offense.
O'Dowd was reassigned temporarily to Murdock's command, based at Lemoore, "pending further review," Navy officials said in the statement.
Murdock assigned Capt. Stephen Foley, the wing's deputy commander, as the acting commander for VFA-122, which is the Navy's fleet replacement squadron for its Super Hornets.
O'Dowd entered the Navy in 1987 and became an F-14 Tomcat naval flight officer, according to his official biography. He's tallied more than 2,000 hours in the Tomcat and 650 hours in the Super Hornet and made 750 arrested landings on aircraft carriers.
He deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1990 and 1991 and took part in the Persian Gulf War. He also participated in operations in Somalia from the aircraft carrier Ranger. After several fleet and staff tours, he served as executive officer of VFA-103 as the squadron transitioned to the Super Hornet, taking command of that squadron in May 2006. The squadron received a Battle "E" award for efficiency while O'Dowd was in command.