5 Epic Military Leadership Fails Of This Decade

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.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Thursday tested a conventionally configured ground-launched ballistic missile, a test that would have been prohibited under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The United States formally withdrew from the landmark 1987 INF pact with Russia in August after determining that Moscow was violating the treaty, an accusation the Kremlin has denied.

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U.S. Air Force airmen from the 405th Expeditionary Support Squadron work together to clear debris inside the passenger terminal the day after a Taliban-led attack at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 12, 2019. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Brandon Cribelar)

Blasts from Taliban car bombs outside of Bagram Airfield on Wednesday caused extensive damage to the base's passenger terminal, new pictures released by the 45th Expeditionary Wing show.

The pictures, which are part of a photo essay called "Bagram stands fast," were posted on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service's website on Thursday.

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The Pentagon's top spokesman tried to downplay recent revelations by the Washington Post that U.S. government officials have consistently misled the American public about the war in Afghanistan for nearly two decades.

Washington Post reporter Craig Whitlock first brought to light that several top officials acknowledged to the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction that the war was going badly despite their optimistic public statements. The report, based on extensive interviews and internal government data, also found that U.S. officials manipulated statistics to create the public perception that the U.S. military was making progress in Afghanistan.

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Katherine Burton was sitting on her couch when she heard a scream.

Though she had not yet met her upstairs neighbors, Army. Col. Jerel Grimes and his wife Ellizabeth, Burton went to investigate almost immediately. "I knew it was a cry for help," she recalled of the August 1 incident.

Above her downstairs apartment in Huntsville, Alabama, Jerel and Ellizabeth had been arguing. They had been doing a lot of that lately. According to Ellizabeth, Jerel, a soldier with 26 years of service and two Afghanistan deployments under his belt, had become increasingly controlling in the months since the couple had married in April, forcing her to share computer passwords, receipts for purchases, and asking where she was at all times.

"I was starting to realize how controlling he was, and how manipulative he was," Ellizabeth said. "And he'd never been this way towards me in the 15 years that I've known him."

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The Hurt Locker will be getting the high-def treatment on Feb. 4, when Lionsgate releases it on demand in "Digital 4K Ultra HD."

And you know we just can't wait.

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