A recently publicized report breaks down why a top Air Force general in charge of nuclear weapons was dismissed in October. It had a lot to do with two-day bender on an official visit to Russia: Drinking, missing meetings, fraternizing with sketchy women, and generally acting like a jerk.
In October, Major General Michael Carey was dismissed from his post at the head of the Air Force's arsenal of nuclear ballistic missiles for "personal misbehavior." At the time, details were limited to a brief statement from the Air Force explaining that the officer in charge of 450 ballistic missiles across three sites was fired over "a loss of trust and confidence in his leadership and judgment.” The Air Force inspector general report findings, released on Thursday, detail Carey's behavior, which was found to be unbefitting of a gentlemen and an officer — but perfectly befitting, we think, of a frat bro on break.
Carey was part of a delegation sent to Moscow to attend a Bilateral Presidential Commission, Military Cooperation Working Group Event. Nothing too serious, just some diplomats getting together to "provide lessons learned and review capabilities with regard to safeguarding nuclear warheads during convoy operations."
According to the report, Carey started drinking on the flight from Dulles Airport to Moscow (which included a boozy stopover in Zurich) and didn't stop until he got home. He started off the trip with some brazen, inebriated, boasting. He reportedly "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." He continued bragging and started complaining upon arrival at the Marriott at Moscow. "Witness stated Maj Gen Carey was talking about the importance of his position and that his group had the worst morale" (that's true!) "and that the leadership wasn't supporting him." He then met some "lovely ladies" with a colleague and escorted them to the Ritz Carlton for the remainder of the evening.
The next morning, Carey was late to a banquet hosted by the Russian Federation (RF), where he displayed an awesome lapse of judgment, making "comments regarding Syria and Mr. Eric Snowden [sic] that were not well received by the RF." Good thing Putin and Obama have such a wonderfully trusting, close-knit relationship, or else this could really mess things up for us. According to witnesses, he "drank more than most of the other participants," and then "announced he had met two hot women the night before."
Carey sullenly joined the other U.S. delegates for a monastery tour, where he "was slurring his speech and continually interrupted the tour guide." He "also left the group to go with another tour guide," maybe because the first guide was "very, very embarrassed" when he tried to fist-bump her. When the group walked to Red Square, he lagged behind and "was described as pouting and sulking about the day's events."
Then it got worse. At dinner that night, Carey insisted on playing with the band, which repeatedly refused, and eventually left the U.S. delegation to dine with the "lovely ladies." He at least admitted to investigators that that he was a little wary of seeing them again, given, you know, his access to high-level nuclear information and a proclivity for the U.S. and Russia to spy on each other.
Carey continued his charm offensive the next day, correcting Russian translators, interrupting speakers, and using a reference to the "American TV ad 'Can you hear me now,' to make a point that was not received well." During the following lunch banquet he interrupted toasts, and spent his final night in Russia drinking in the Marriott lobby until the early hours of the morning with a mysterious "Cigar Shop Lady," who he thought was a little weird for knowing so much about physics.
The dismissed officer offered a weak defense, telling investigators he "did not recall" many of the incidents and sometimes arrogantly standing behind his actions. He mentioned a late-night "philosophical discussion as why, you know, why should I go out there [to the conference] tomorrow if they're not even going to have anyone of equivalent rank." He also explained his constant tardiness by saying he didn't know when "show time" was, and didn't neglect to offer the totally relevant information that he was training for a marathon.
Apparently, Carey's wild Moscow experience was an isolated one. General William Sheldon, head of the Air Force Space Command, said "This was an unfortunate incident. Maj. Gen. Carey has otherwise served the nation extremely well," but added that "After full consideration of all the available information, I determined the evidence supported taking further command action in addition to his previous removal from command of 20th Air Force." Carey now serves at the Air Force space operation. Surely, he won't be able to offend Russian diplomats from there.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.