By Robert Burns
The Air Force general who was fired from his post as head of U.S. land-based nuclear missile forces engaged in “inappropriate behavior” while on official business in Russia last summer, including heavy drinking and associating with “suspect” women, according to an investigation report released Thursday.
The events took place during a trip Maj. Gen. Michael Carey made in July as the leader of a U.S. government delegation to a nuclear security training exercise. At the time, he was commander of the 20th Air Force, responsible for 450 Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles stationed in five U.S. states.
Carey’s firing was one of several setbacks for the nuclear force this year. The Associated Press has documented serious security lapses and complaints of low morale and “rot” within the force, leading to the sidelining of 17 officers.
After the trip, a member of the delegation complained to the Air Force Inspector General’s office about Carey’s behavior. After interviews with delegation members, including Carey, investigators concluded that he “engaged in inappropriate behavior” that amounted to “conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman,” as defined in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
“Maj. Gen. Carey kept late hours and consumed alcohol every day of the trip,” the report said, “even to the point where it was visibly noticeable ... (and) one witness was concerned that Maj. Gen. Carey needed assistance standing.”
One member of the U.S. delegation was quoted by the investigator as reporting that Carey, while on the trip, had said in front of others that the airmen in 20th Air Force “have the worst morale of any airmen in the Air Force,” and that Carey’s superior officers were not helping him solve that problem.
Asked about this allegation, Carey told the investigator that he did not remember saying his superiors were not supporting him and that he recently had reported to the Air Force’s top officer, Gen. Mark Welsh, that morale in his organization was “solid.”
In response to the investigators’ report, Carey received what the Air Force calls a “letter of counseling.” That’s a form of discipline for noncriminal misbehavior. After he was relieved of duty in October as commander of the 20th Air Force, Carey was reassigned as special assistant to the commander of Air Force Space Command, where he has no responsibility for nuclear weapons. He remains in that post.
The Air Force investigation report said Carey was “frequently rude to both his fellow delegates and to his Russian hosts” while attending the two-day nuclear security training exercise at the Abramovo Counterterrorism Training Center in Sergiev Posad.
It also cited Carey for associating with Russian or other non-American women, who may have posed a possible security threat.
“Maj. Gen. Carey engaged in inappropriate or improper behavior when he chose to meet up with and continued to associate with the foreign national women ... especially given his own acknowledgement that the women were suspect,” the report said.
A footnote in the report said Carey told the Air Force investigator that he “had concerns” about the two women he and another member of the U.S. delegation met at the Ritz Carlton hotel on their first night in Moscow, and that upon his return to the United States he gave the women’s business cards to the Air Force Office of Special Investigation.
It said Carey sat with the same two women at a restaurant/bar the following night and danced with one of them.