tbo: Tampa Bay Online.
Sunday, May 27, 2018
  • Home
News Roundup

Charette was a high-flying CIA operative

From the jungles of Thailand to the highest heights anyone can jump from, Wilfred "Squeak" Charette served his country. He served with the military, domestically and overseas, with the 508th Airborne Regimental Combat Team, the 101st Airborne Division, the 1st Cavalry and the Special Forces. And, after leaving the military, he served with the Central Intelligence Agency, rising through ranks until he retired as Director of Central Intelligence representative at U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, attaining the equivalent rank of a Maj. General. He earned some of the CIA's highest honors, including the Donovan Award for Excellence and two Director of Central Intelligence awards for Exceptional Service Under Conditions of Hazard and Hardship. Charette died Sunday at his Tampa home. He was 73.
Born in Rhode Island on Nov. 14, 1936, Charette entered the Army in 1958, where he became a pioneer in high altitude jumping. He was a charter member of the Golden Knights - the Army's parachute team - and the first non-commissioned officer in charge of the Special Forces Training Group High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) Committee. He would later become part of the Joint Army/Air Force HALO Test Team in the early '60s that established much of the group's operational doctrine and training still being used today. Charette also joined in the record-breaking, no-pressure-suit 43,500-foot jump with eight others assigned to a program designed to test human reactions to extreme altitudes. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross and wrote the United States Parachute Association's publication "Jumping in the Troposphere." Charette's last military assignment was as a Staff Sgt. with the 5th Special Forces Group. In 1964, he was recruited by the CIA, where he served until retiring in 1996. After serving as a paramilitary staff officer at CIA Headquarters, Charette was stationed in Laos and Thailand during the Vietnam War, first as a paramilitary case officer, then chief of operations and chief of a Laotian irregular paramilitary unit for eight years. After serving in Southeast Asia, Charette was reassigned to Africa, where he was stationed in Ethiopia and Ghana form 1974 until 1979. Charette was then transferred to Swaziland until being moved to Uganda. In 1985, he was named chief of the CIA's Counter Terrorist Center. He later served as the CIA's deputy chief of field deployment. His final CIA assignment was here in Tampa, as Director of Central Intelligence representative at Socom. Charette is survived by his wife Amy Charette of Tampa, sons Wilfred Jr. of Gainesville, VA and Joseph of Nashville sister Carol Moran of Cumberland, RI, nephew Steven and nieces Jill, Jane and Ellen Moran, all of Rhode Island. A viewing will be held tonight from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 509 North Florida Ave. It is open to the public. A memorial ceremony will be held 9 a.m. Thursday at the Special Operations Memorial at MacDill. A reception will immediately follow at the MacDill Officers' Club.

Reporter Howard Altman can be reached at (813) 259-7629.

Weather Center