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Young Navy officer remembered as 'comet'

"Smart, funny, competitive, athletic, destined for success - all are words that Lt. j.g. Scott Kinkele's friends and relatives use to describe the young Navy officer who was murdered on Highway 20 near Anacortes early last Friday morning.Another word being used is senseless.Kinkele, a 23-year-old Annapolis graduate, was driving back to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station after visiting a friend in Mount Vernon when three men drove behind his Subaru station wagon. One of the men fired a 12-gauge shotgun through Kinkele's back windshield, killing him instantly.And in that instant, said Lt. Cmdr. Rich Schoenwiesner, the Navy lost one of its best and brightest.Schoenwiesner was one of of Kinkele's instructors and academic advisors at the Naval Academy. Although Kinkele was the youngest member of his class, his intellect and focus were well advanced, Schoenwiesner said.He was one of the few ever here that I just knew would get things done, he said. He was an outstanding person. Scott Walter Kinkele was born June 15, 1977, at Yakota Air Base, near Toykyo. When he was three, his family moved to the Haight-Asbury district in San Francisco.His father, John, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and navigator, said his son's decision to fly with the Navy was a surprise.I had no clue, the elder Kinkele said. He did it all on his own. He decided to go to the Academy and went out and received the appointment from a member of the House (of Representatives) in San Francisco.Col. Kinkele said his son was competitive and deeply involved in athletics at an early age. The youngest Kinkele became an accomplished mountain climber, long-distance runner, sailor and bicycle racer - always pushing the limits of his endurance.In fact, Kinkele celebrated his graduation from the Naval Academy by flying to Alaska and summiting Mt. McKinley, his father said.Marathons were too short for him, Kinkele said. Scott did 50-milers.It was in Texas, at Randolph Air Base in San Antonio, where Kinkele cemented his friendships with three people: his best friend, Ensign Jason Pomponio, his wife Tamara, and LT. j.g. J. Wayne Hill.The three men went through navigator school together and continued the friendship when they were transferred to NAS Whidbey for more schooling.At the time of his murder, Kinkele was living with Hill and his wife Linda in Oak Harbor.We used to give him a hard time because of his high voice and because his hair was always a little longer than it should have been, Hill said after Kinkele's memorial service at NAS Whidbey's chapel on Tuesday.But Hill also said Kinkele's intellect, athletic ability and competitive drive were staggering.We'd be doing PRT (Physical Readiness Tests) and he'd just disappear, Hill said. The rest of us would be at the half-way point and he'd be done and out there clapping for us and saying, 'Way to go,' and 'C'mon guys, you can do it.' You'd want to throttle him, but you couldn't. That was Scott.Hill said Kinkele often sought release and new challenges in the mountains around Washington, testing himself on peaks and sheer rock faces.He had this habit of disappearing, and we just assumed he was out climbing, Hill said.Had his life not been taken so early, Hill said, Kinkele could have accomplished anything he set his mind to.You can just look at certain people and say this person's going to go really far, Hill said. Scott was that kind of person.He was more than a friend, he was a brother, Ensign Pomponio said at Kinkele's service. We called him 'Mr. 110 Percent' because Scott always gave all he had and Scott gave so much. The only time he was still was when he slept.Despite his accomplishments and his potential, both Hill, Pomponio and Pomponio's wife Tamara remembered the man they called Scotty as mischievous, a bit of a sea lawyer in class and stubbornly independent.He did what he wanted, when he wanted, Pomponio said. And he always did it very well.As was his habit, Scott Kinkele graduated at the top of his class at the aviation warfare school at NAS Whidbey. He was slated to join VQ-2 in Rota Spain in September as naval flight officer on an EP-3, Aries II. He had a date to guide an expedition on Mt. Everest in 2003. Instead, the man friends describe as smart, funny, competitive and destined for success will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.Scott was a comet that streaked across the sky, Pomponio said.-----------You can reach reporter D. Patrick Connolly at sports@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611."

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