Air Force Fires Two Nuclear Missile Commanders

WASHINGTON -- Two commanders with the Air Force's nuclear missile fleet have been relieved of command and a third has received administrative disciplinary action as a result of a loss of confidence in their leadership.

The moves are the latest in a string of negative events for the elite officers known as "missileers" who supervise the Air Force's fleet of 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Over the past 18 months, the Air Force has retrained missileers who failed operations inspections and suspended more than 90 officers involved in a cheating scandal at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.

In October 2013, Maj. Gen. Michael Carey was fired from his job as commander of the 20th Air Force that had direct oversight for the three wings responsible for the Air Force's ICBM fleet. An investigation determined that he had engaged in drunken behavior last summer while attending a nuclear security conference in Russia.

The incidents have resulted in the Air Force instituting reforms intended to improve the morale of missileers and command climate at the three missile wings.

Lt. Col. John Sheets, a spokesman for Air Force Global Strike Command, confirmed that on Monday a squadron commander at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and the vice wing Commander at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming had been relieved of their commands.

Another officer at Minot received administrative punishments and remains on duty.

"We have a demanding mission that requires everyone from the Airmen in the field to the teammates supporting them back at the base to give their personal best," Sheets said in a statement. "We won't accept a command climate that detracts from that effort. Our people must treat each other with dignity and respect -- that applies up and down the chain of command."

Lt. Col. Jimmy Brown, in command of the 741st Missile Squadron at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, was relieved of command on Monday by Col. Michael Lutton, 91st Missile Wing commander, "because of a loss of confidence in Brown's ability to lead his squadron."

An investigation "substantiated that Brown engaged in unlawful discrimination or harassment." That included the finding "that many squadron members believe women are, or will be, treated differently than men," the statement said.

Sheets said that according to the investigation, "Brown made statements to subordinates that created a perception within his squadron that pregnancy would negatively affect a woman's career."

It also found instances when "he failed to fulfill his responsibilities as a commander by ensuring the well-being of his Airmen," Sheets said.

One sauch incident specified in the report was in March 2014, when a missile crew became ill from fumes at a launch control center, but remained at their posts because they believed they would have gotten in trouble with Brown if they had left. They eventually received medical attention at a local post after their shift was over.

The investigation also found that Col. Richard Pagliuco, the 91st Operations Group Commander at Minot, had "failed to promote and safeguard the morale, well-being, and welfare of the Airmen under his command," Sheets said. Lutton determined that Pagliucco should receive an administrative punishment, according to the statement.

At F.E. Warren, Col. Carl Jones, the number two commander of the 90th Missile Wing was relieved of command "for a loss of trust and confidence in his leadership abilities."

An investigation substantiated allegations that Jones had maltreated subordinates on multiple occasions. That investigation was triggered by an event in September in which Jones had gone to an on-base thrift store operated by volunteers known as "The Airman's Attic."

According to the report, during a discussion with volunteers about the store's shopping hour policies Jones "repeatedly hit the Airman's Attic's front counter while raising his voice, using profanity and threatening to shut down the Airman's Attic."

Earlier this spring he was visibly angry and directed profanity at employees at the base's bowling center because of the long wait times for food, the report said.

In another incident Jones made derogatory remarks to a first lieutenant in front of others about the officer's job knowledge.

"The lieutenant and another witness found the interaction inappropriate and were in disbelief and shocked by Jones' behavior," the report said.

Jones will be reassigned to 90th Missile Wing Headquarters as a special assistant to the commander.

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