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Air Force releases info on Malmstrom cheating punishments

Jul. 9, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
In this image released by the Air Force, a Malmstrom Air Force Base missile maintenance team removes the upper section of an ICBM at a Montana missile site.
In this image released by the Air Force, a Malmstrom Air Force Base missile maintenance team removes the upper section of an ICBM at a Montana missile site. (John Parie/Air Force)
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Of the officers implicated in the cheating investigation at Malmstrom Air Force Base, 14 of them received non-judicial punishment, known as an Article 15, consisting of reprimands and forfeitures of basic pay.

The amount of the forfeitures depended on the evidence and information presented to the commander during the disciplinary hearings, according to information released to the Great Falls Tribune from Air Force Global Strike Command.

The punishments come from a cheating investigation that was announced in January when a separate drug investigation uncovered text messages in which officers charged with operating intercontinental ballistic missiles were sharing answers to their monthly proficiency tests. One hundred officers were eventually investigated. Some of those officers were cleared, but others received punishments. Some are still under investigation.

Two Malmstrom officers are currently going through the non-judicial punishment proceedings, according to Global Strike, and no decision has yet been made in those cases.

Non-judicial punishment falls under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and is a disciplinary measure more serious than administrative corrective measures, but less serious than a trial by court-martial. According to the Air Force, it’s a process that allows commanders to instill good order and discipline without the stigma of a court-martial conviction.

Seventy officers, the bulk of those investigated, received letters of reprimand, admonishment or counseling. Those include five missileers who had been sent to other bases prior to the investigation, according to Global Strike.

These letters are administrative disciplinary measures available to commanders and supervisors, but is not evidence of guilt of any particular offense, according to the Air Force. They are used to improve, correct and instruct subordinates who depart from standards, conduct, bearing and integrity, on or off duty.

These administrative actions can be verbal or written. Counseling is the lowest of the three and is widely used in officer training. A reprimand is more severe than an admonishment and indicates a higher degree of official censure, according to the Air Force.

One of the officers involved left the Air Force before the investigation began, and eight officers under investigation received no form of punishment.

Five missileers’ cases are still being handled by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and those officers currently are off alert, according to Global Strike.

About two-thirds of the missileers involved in the investigation have either been recertified and have returned to alert duty or are going through the training pipeline.

This week, officials from Global Strike and 20th Air Force have been visiting the three ICBM bases and are at Malmstrom Wednesday discussing the Force Improvement Program instituted as a result of the culture and morale problems discovered through the cheating investigation.

The Air Force redirected $19 million for areas identified in FIP. Those areas include launch control center refurbishment and infrastructure repairs. Another $3 million were identified for quality-of-life improvements.

For the next fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, the Air Force has requested $455 million to sustain ICBM squadrons, ICBM helicopter support and critical communication areas.

The proposed budget also identified $154 million in other requirements from the force improvement program, including readiness, training and improvements to launch control facilities, among other improvements.

Earlier this year, Malmstrom received $2.86 million for upgrades identified through the program, plus $1 million for quality-of-life improvements.

The funding received so far at Malmstrom includes $467,000 for intercontinental ballistic missile weapons system parts and $200,000 for parts for the minuteman integrated life extension program known as Rivet MILE.

The base also received $2.19 million for launch control center refurbishment.

The quality-of-life improvements at Malmstrom include updated kitchen equipment and working gear for the missile alert facilities, as well as reopening the base pool and resurfacing the gym floor in the fitness center.

Other improvements include: wall lockers at the missile alert facilities, computer chairs, fire station mattresses and box springs, paint and security cameras for dormitories, carpet steam cleaners, light bulbs, pool table equipment, computers and more.

The Air Force also created an assistant director of operations position at each of the three missile wings to bridge the gap between young missileers and leadership. Each wing has three missile squadrons and each will have an ADO by the end of the summer, Global Strike announced this month.

Eventually, Global Srike said two will be at every unit.

Maj. Scott Fleming has been assigned to the 490th Missile Squadron at Malmstrom. He’s currently the legislative liaison for the commander of Global Strike. As the new ADO at the 490th, he’ll help the flight commanders develop young officers and help the squadron commander work through any issues.

“I’m glad to see they are pursing this. Historically in the ICBM units, there has been a large gap between the leadership level and those pulling the duty out there in the field,” Fleming said in an Air Force release. “If you look at the bomber units and most of the flying units, it’s not quite set up that way. They have more mid-level management and leadership from ADOs who are able to bridge that gap.”

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