Is This Any Way for a Nuclear-Armed U.S. Air Force General to Behave?

Probe concludes two-star officer was drunk and consorting with suspicious women during summer trip to Russia

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Air Force

Major General Michael Carey

Air Force Major General Michael Carey recently lost his job commanding all land-based U.S. nuclear missiles after Pentagon investigators concluded he drank too much and cavorted with “suspect” women last July during an official three-day trip to Russia.

Carey’s career crashed and burned while he was serving as leader of a U.S. delegation participating with Russian counterparts on a nuclear-security exercise, according to a report released Thursday by the Air Force inspector general. The Air Force removed him in October as commander of the 20th Air Force, where he oversaw the 450 Minuteman missiles spread across five states and the 9,600 people who operate and maintain them. The report’s release is the latest embarrassment for the Air Force’s nuclear branch.

Carey’s behavior on the trip upset a woman who complained about his behavior “to her leadership.” The woman, whose name was blacked out of the 44-page report, is on the staff of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The training exercise, which focused on the safe transport of nuclear weapons over land, took place at Sergeiv Posad, about 60 miles north of Moscow.

Investigators interviewed eight people who made the trip, which was pretty much the entire U.S. team. “Maj Gen Carey’s account of events varied greatly at times from those of the other US members on the trip,” the IG report said. “The IO [investigating officer] reviewed all of the testimony associated with the investigation and determined that Maj Gen Carey was generally less credible than the other witnesses.”

Air Force investigators concluded that Carey’s “inappropriate behavior” violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and its prohibition of “conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman” (which in today’s military “includes both male and female commissioned officers,” the IG noted).

“General Carey was relieved for something that General Carey would tell you was an embarrassing period of behavior while he was on a TDY [temporary duty]. He would say that to you,” General Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, said last month. “That’s exactly what he said to me: `I’ve embarrassed myself and my Air Force. I’m sorry.'”

The embarrassment began even before Carey reached Russia, surfacing as members of the U.S. delegation were delayed in Zurich July 14 while on their way to Moscow. One member of the U.S. team told investigators that “Maj Gen Carey was visibly agitated about the long delay at Zurich, he appeared drunk and, in the public area, talked loudly about the importance of his position as commander of the only operational nuclear force in the world and that he saves the world from war every day.”

It only got worse. Here is the IG’s chronological summary of the three full days Carey’s team—a Bilateral Presidential Commission Military Cooperation Working Group, no less—spent in Russia:

Day 1

— Marriott: The team had drinks in executive lounge after arriving at Marriott and drinks in the Marriott lobby area. Witness stated Maj Gen Carey was talking about the importance of his position and that his group had the worst morale and that the leadership wasn’t supporting him. Maj Gen Carey and Mr. [deleted] left the Marriott around midnight to go the [rooftop bar at the] Ritz.

Ritz Carlton: Maj Gen Carey and Mr [deleted] met two foreign national women at the Ritz Carlton. Returned to the Marriott hotel between 2:30 and 5 AM.

Day 2

— Departure from Marriot hotel to go to Sergeiv Posad: Maj Gen Carey was 45 minutes late for the departure time.

— Initial briefing by the RF [Russian Federation]: Maj Gen Carey’s behavior perceived by at least some of the US delegation as rude.

— Lunch banquet: RF not pushing alcohol. Approximately nine toasts during the banquet. Maj Gen Carey made comments regarding Syria and Mr. Eric Snowden that were not well received by the RF. Maj Gen Carey made comments regarding lovely ladies that were concerning to some members of the delegation. Witness stated that that Maj Gen Carey drank more than most of the other participants. Ms. [deleted] stated that Maj Gen Carey announced he had met two hot women the night before.

— Monastery: Maj Gen Carey was slurring his speech and continually interrupted the tour guide. Maj Gen Carey also left the group to go with another tour guide.

— Red Square: Maj Gen Carey was lagging behind on the walk to Red Square. Other members had to keep checking on him. Maj Gen Carey didn’t want to walk around Red Square with the group. Maj Gen Carey was described as pouting and sulking about the day’s events.

— La Cantina (dinner): Maj Gen Carey was drinking alcohol and kept trying to get the band to let him play with them. He left the US group and sat with the two women from the Ritz Carlton he had met the night before. Maj Gen Carey also danced with one of the women from the night before.

— Post La Cantina: Maj Gen Carey, two US delegation members and the two women went to several places for drinks after leaving the La Cantina. Maj Gen Carey arrived at his hotel approximately 3 AM.

Day 3

— Departure from Marriott hotel to go to Sergeiv Posad: 15 minutes late because of Maj Gen Carey despite the RF request to be on time.

— Initial briefings: Maj Gen Carey’s behavior again described as rude by interrupting the speakers and correcting the Russian translator. Used an American TV ad “Can you hear me now” to make a point but it was not received well.

— Lunch banquet: RF not pushing alcohol. Approximately 25 toasts were given during the banquet. Interrupted RF toasts with commentary.

— Return to the Marriott: Maj Gen Carey had drinks in the lobby of the Marriot until approximately 4 AM with LTC [deleted] and “Cigar Shop Lady.”

Cigar shop lady?

If this is beginning to sound like a bad James Bond movie, you’re in good company: Carey shared your suspicions, according to a couple of footnotes in the report:

Maj Gen Carey stated he had concerns regarding the two women he and Mr. [deleted] met at the Ritz Carlton the first night. Upon his return, Maj Gen Carey gave the two women’s business cards to the Office of Special Investigation (OSI). When asked why he was concerned about the two women, Maj Gen Carey stated, “Well, it just seemed kind of peculiar that we saw them one night and then saw them again later while we were there and for people who are in business to be kinda conveniently in the same place where we’re at, it seemed odd to me. Same thing with the tobacco store lady.”

Maj Gen Carey bought cigars from the cigar shop within the Marriott on two of his three nights in Moscow. Maj Gen Carey stated that he had concerns regarding the lady selling cigars and also turned in her business card to the OSI upon his return. Maj Gen Carey stated, “And I advised one of the officers [OS I] that you need to watch out for that because that’s just like our training says, you know, people are trolling for information. And a tobacco store lady talking about physics in the wee hours of the morning doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Most, most, uh, urn, store venders are home trying to sleep for the next day.”

Carey is now serving as a special assistant to the commander of Air Force Space Command. He is no longer responsible for any nuclear weapons.