5 Epic Military Leadership Fails Of This Decade

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U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, then 20th Air Force and U.S. Strategic Command Task Force 214 commander, speaks at a memorialization ceremony in the Campisi Alert Facility at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, June 13, 2013.
U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger

We’re less than a month into 2016, and already no fewer than four senior military brass have behaved badly. Senior leader sackings have become so mundane that it’s become a running gag at Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tom Ricks’ Foreign Policy column.


There have been dozens of senior officer scandals since 2010, but here are five of the most outlandish.

Maj. Gen. Carey saves the world from war, one drunk day at a time.

America’s nuclear missile force is no stranger to scandal between various episodes of cheating, drug use, and gambling. But Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, who commanded nearly 450 nuclear missiles, took the nuclear community to new highs (or lows, depending on your point of view) during a five-day bender to Moscow in July 2013.

According to the Air Force’s official investigation — which reads like a chapter from Tucker Max’s “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell” — Carey cavorted with suspicious foreign women, unsuccessfully tried to dance on stage with a mariachi band, and boasted to no one in particular during a layover in Zurich that he “saves the world from war every day.” Carey was relieved of his duties shortly thereafter and retired less than a year later as a brigadier general.

Related: What history can teach us about leadership: Good, bad, and ugly

Navy Rear Adm. David Baucom thinks that excess baggage fees are a drag.

Not wanting to spend $25 on excess baggage fees, Rear Adm. David Baucom left his pajamas at home while attending a conference at a beachfront hotel in Florida in April 2015. It was the beginning of an evening that would make Frank the Tank blush.  

A few rounds of wine, whiskey, and gin at the hotel bar hit the admiral like a “ton of bricks,” according to the inspector general’s report, as he fell down repeatedly, smacking his head first on a barstool, then on the back of a couch. After being helped to his room by a busboy, the admiral awoke in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, but instead found himself locked out of his room — without his clothes. Two alarmed female guests reported the admiral’s antics to hotel security. Shortly after the incident, Baucom was transferred to the Pentagon. If there’s a silver lining to the incident, it provided great fodder for West Point superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen during the annual Army-Navy game — perhaps the only high point in Army’s 14 consecutive losses to America’s sea service.

The internet may be for porn, but government computers aren’t.

That was a lesson Rear Adm. Rick Williams, head of the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s carrier strike group training command, learned the hard way, after being relieved of his duties earlier this month, according to reports from Navy Times and Stars and Stripes.

Quick tip: It takes more than just a few accidental clicks to run afoul of the Defense Department’s ban on pornography on government computers. It seems the admiral couldn’t wait until he got home to get his daily dose of PornHub. Next time you’re forced to sit through hours of mandatory training on cyber security and proper use of government computers, you can thank this guy.

Col. James Johnson III is a ladies man.

The colonel, who commanded the Italy-based 173rd Airborne Brigade, was caught in an affair. While I don’t think I could handle one wife, he had two, and was convicted during court-martial proceedings in 2012, pleading guilty to over fifteen charges, including bigamy.

The affair became known when Johnson’s wife went to the doctor and discovered she was no longer Johnson’s TRICARE insurance beneficiary. It wasn’t a paperwork glitch — Johnson had secretly married a former Iraqi interpreter who emigrated from Iraq to the Netherlands. It’s a tale as old as time: Boy meets girl; boy meets another girl in Iraq; boy faces charges of steering millions of dollars of contracts towards the Iraqi girl’s family; boy allegedly uses government funds to visit girl in the Netherlands; boy is forced to retire as a lieutenant colonel and pay over $300,000 in fines.

If you’re thinking of starting your own drinking club, just don’t.

Rank has its privileges, and for Army Lt. Col. David Chiarenza, that included the honor of being the “Supreme Allied Commander” of his own fraternity-style drinking club, according to Stars and Stripes. The club’s bylaws, tallying over eight pages, were longer than many combat operations orders.  

Witnesses testified participation in the club was “unofficially mandatory,” with attendance logged at most weekend get-togethers. A flyer for one such battalion bender in March 2012 encouraged junior officers to bring two bottles of alcohol, advertising the party would last “until liver failure.” According to the investigation — which makes references to plastic swords, pacifiers, and other novelties for games, the battalion’s operations officer — Maj. Christopher Garbarino allegedly groped a female lieutenant and eventually had to be tied down with duct tape. The incident landed the major in confinement and cost him six months’ pay.   

This is why the military can’t have nice things.

With northeast Syria engulfed in the fog of war, the Turks, Russians, and Kurds have all launched their own propaganda campaigns to win the battle over information.

One of the biggest unknowns at the moment involves exactly how many ISIS fighters and their families previously captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces have managed to escape since Turkey invaded Kurdish-held Syria on Oct. 6, 2019.

But while Defense Secretary Mark Esper has blamed Turkey for catalyzing the release of "many dangerous ISIS detainees", a senior administration official was unable to say on Monday exactly how many ISIS prisoners may have escaped.

Based on open source reporting, about 850 women and children affiliated with ISIS are believed to have fled a detainee camp at Ayn Issa and another five ISIS prisoners escaped from a prison at Qamishli, said Caitlin Forrest, director of operations for the Institute for the Study of War think tank in Washington, D.C.

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Few things say "I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubble gum" like a Navy amphibious assault craft absolutely covered with Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighters ready to bomb an adversary back to the Stone Age.

That's the logic behind the so-called "Lightning Carrier" concept designed to turn those "Gator Navy" amphibs into ad hoc aircraft carriers — and the Corps appears to be moving slowly but surely into turning that concept into a new doctrine for the new era of great power competition.

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The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report into the fatal crash of a B-17 bomber crash in Connecticut earlier this month.

Shortly after takeoff at 9:50 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 2, the pilot of the vintage WWII-era plane signaled to air traffic control at Bradley International Airport that he sought to land.

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While America's forever wars continue to rage abroad, the streaming wars are starting to heat up at home.

On Monday, the Walt Disney Company announced that its brand new online streaming service, aptly titled Disney+, will launch an all-out assault on eyeballs around the world with an arsenal of your favorite content starting on November 12th. Marvel Cinematic Universe content! Star Wars content! Pixar content! Classic Disney animation content!

While the initial Disney+ content lineup looks like the most overpowered alliance since NATO, there's one addition of particular interest hidden in Disney's massive Twitter announcement, an elite strike force with a unique mission that stands ready to eliminate streaming enemies like Netflix and Hulu no matter where they may hide.

That's right, I'm talking about Operation Dumbo Drop — and no, I am not fucking around.

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Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

On Monday, The New York Times reported that U.S. officials were considering plans to move the U.S. nuclear arsenal from Inçirlik Air Base in Turkey.

This move would be likely to further deteriorate the tense relationship between the U.S. and Turkey, which has rapidly devolved as Turkey invaded northeastern Syria in assault on the Kurdish forces that fought ISIS alongside the U.S.

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