File photo (1989) of an F-14A live-firing an AIM-9. Just not at an American jet.
Here’s a story of a guy who’s probably the ultimate Blue Falcon — of all nations, services, and epochs. Yes, he’s that bad. First, the backstory: Timothy W. Dorsey is probably the worst example ever of how an Admiral’s son can rise in rank in the Navy despite, shall we say, limited competence.
Dorsey’s father, James Dorsey, was an aviator who rose to three-star rank (Vice Admiral) in Pentagon billets after his shipboard days ended. So Timothy’s career skids were greased, and in the 1980s, he skated through training and into the cockpit of an F-14, then the Navy’s premier fighter plane. Career-wise, he blew past aviators with better skill and judgment.
At least, until 22 Sep 87. As an investigating board put it, in the words of board chairman VADM Kendall E. Moranville:
The September 22, 1987, destruction of USAF RF-4C was not the result of an accident, but the consequence of a deliberate act. His subsequent reaction [to the radio command] demonstrated an absolute disregard of the known facts and circumstances.
He failed to utilize the decision-making process taught in replacement training and reacted in a purely mechanical manner. The performance of Lieutenant Timothy W. Dorsey on September 22, 1987, raises substantial doubt as to his capacity for good, sound judgment.
We necessarily rely on the self-discipline and judgment of pilots to prevent such incidents; we have no other choice. Nothing, in my opinion, can mitigate Lieutenant Dorsey’s basic error in judgment.
Yes, Dorsey, carrying out what was supposed to be a guns-cold practice intercept of a friendly reconnaissance jet, armed, locked, and fired an AIM-9 Sidewinder entirely on his own volition. The two pilots in the Air Force jet ejected and survived with minor injuries. Then, he lied about it, displaying a shoulders-wide streak of moral cowardice in his character. A former squadron mate:
I would never have guessed he’d ever make it to commander, much less admiral. In fact, I thought his career was over back when the shoot-down happened. He refused to accept any blame for the shoot-down and swore he was just following ROE even though he knew it was a friendly. I mean, the guy did it on purpose.
For most people that board’s dry understatement, “substantial doubt as to his capacity for good, sound judgment,” would have, shall we say, nailed the three wire on their Naval career.
But most people can’t rely on Admiral Daddy Dorsey (at the time of Timothy’s RF-4 kill a RADM) to run interference. Dorsey Junior couldn’t fly — they clipped his wings after that staggering display of poor skill and character, forbidding him from ever flying a Naval aircraft again, although they still allowed him to wear the wings on his uniform — but he continued onward and upward in the Naval Reserve. Fast forward to 2012 (we’ve changed the order of some of the quoted paragraphs):
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta this month announced to the Senate several nominations for promotion to admiral.
On the list is Navy Reserve Capt. Timothy W. Dorsey, … who, while assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, committed what the report said was an “illogical act.”
Dorsey intentionally fired his fighter jet’s missile at an Air Force reconnaissance plane, nearly killing its two aviators and destroying the aircraft during a training exercise…
His promotion to admiral has some in the aviation community shaking their heads, especially because minor discretions by flight officers over the past decades have resulted in reprimands and the ends of careers.
Compare Dorsey’s career trajectory — “Mess up and move up” — with what happened to anyone who attended Tailhook in the wrong year. In the end, he didn’t get his Admiral’s Star, but it took an Act of Congress (albeit without the capital A) to stop the promotion.
One wonders what Capt. Michael W. Ross and First Lt. Randy H. Spouse think about Dorsey. Who are they?
“The airplane just starts shaking like you wouldn’t believe,” Ross said. Both he and Sprouse thought they had collided with the F-14.
“I’ve got fire lights – let’s get out of here!” Ross shouted.
“I’m gone!” Sprouse said from the back seat as he pulled an ejection handle rigged to both seats.
Back on the F-14, [Dorsey’s backseater] Holland took to the airwaves. “Mayday! Mayday!” he shouted. “Got a kill on a Fox 4!” Within moments, the Navy brass was on the radio, demanding answers.
“I’m sorry,” Holland recalled Dorsey saying as they circled the downed aviators and watched the burning wreckage sink. “I guess I kind of screwed this up.”
That was before he started applying the DAMN method:
- Deny everything;
- Admit nothing;
- Make counteraccusations;
- Never change your story.
Within 30 minutes, a rescue helicopter from the Saratoga plucked Ross and Sprouse from the water and took them to the carrier. Their injuries were relatively minor – primarily a badly bruised hand for Ross and a dislocated shoulder for Sprouse.
Indeed, while Dorsey’s willful screw-up didn’t have big consequences for Dorsey, it did for RF-4C pilot Ross, who’s full of reconstructive hardware and in pain every day, to one extent or another:
His ejection caused a powerful whiplash that resulted in a degenerating spine and a premature end to a career he believed was on a path to make the rank of general.
“I’m not trying to say I flew when I was unable. I never did that,” Col. Ross said. “But it got to the point where I started getting myself in positions where I was doing more desk work than flying.”
All told, he said, he has had seven back surgeries in which surgeons have installed screws, plates and rods to keep him functional.
Fished out of the water and taken to the Saratoga, Col. Ross waited for an apology from Lt. Dorsey. It did not come until last year, when the former Air Force pilot received a note from Capt. Dorsey as his nomination was pending in the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Meanwhile, what’s a man who’s got a really bad character, and has decided to ply his Navy trade part-time as a Reservist, going to do with the rest of his waking hours? What the rest of the cheats, connivers and chiselers do: go to law school. And he became head, general counsel, and spokesman for a racket that cons lower-IQ lower-enlisted guys in military towns into overpaying for shoddy merchandise, and then gouges them with lawsuits, filed thousands of miles away in Virginia, where Blue Falcon Dorsey, like Admiral Daddy Dorsey before him, is “connected.”
Now, recently Dorsey’s personal and political pal, Attorney General Mark Herring of Virginia — whom you may remember as the guy who tried to singlehandedly erase all concealed-carry reciprocity of VA with other states, until the state legislature folded that dictate until it was all sharp corners and proceeded to clean out his polyps with it — announced that he had a great deal in the form of a settlement.
The deal is a great one — for Blue Falcon Dorsey and the other crooks of USA Discounters. They get rid of all past, present and future legal liabilities with a $40 million slush-fund infusion to Herring and other state AGs, cleaning up their balance sheet — and letting them continue to cheat service members to their heart’s content. Cha-chingg!
And the deal is a great one — for Herring, giving him $40 million in off the books money he can sluice to his pals in connected “non-profits.” Just in time for the 2016 election! Cha-chingg!
The deal is a crappy one for the service members that Dorsey used to, still does, and will continue to rip off, as Dorsey and Herring do the grip-n-grin and laugh about the chumps.
In the bad old days when a base/post, brigade/wing, or battalion/squadron commander was king, he would put chiselers like Dorsey’s USA Discounters “Off Limits” and let them work their wiles on the civilians. You can see why the last few Secretaries of Defense and the Navy, and their political buddies like Mark Herring, and their crony capitalists like Four-More-to-Ace Dorsey, have wanted to see the services “fundamentally transformed.”
But it turns out not to be necessary, because Almost Admiral Four-Short-of-Ace Lawyer Timothy W. Dorsey and his gang ran USA discounters into the ground. And it went bankrupt in 2015.
Don’t worry about Dorsey, though. You know ol’ Blue Falcon paid himself first.
(Many hat tips to Jonn and NHSparky at This Ain’t Hell for most of the links in this post. There was also a good story in the Washingtonian, but it’s not online any more, just a comic-book style illustration of Dorsey smoking the RF-4).