Maj. Gen. Michael Carey was removed from command of the 20th Air Force commander for conduct unbecoming an officer in October following an Air Force inspector general's finding. (John Turner / Air Force)
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The two-star formerly in charge of the Air Force’s nuclear missile arsenal was “frequently rude” to his hosts while he led a U.S. delegation to Russia, socialized with “suspect” women and appeared to be so drunk that one witness worried he needed help standing, according to an inspector general investigation report released Thursday.
Maj. Gen. Michael Carey was fired as commander of 20th Air Force for conduct unbecoming an officer in October following the Air Force inspector general’s finding. A member of the delegation reported his behavior to the inspector general shortly after returning from the trip in July.
Carey is still a two-star, and has since been reassigned as the special assistant to the commander of Air Force Space Command and has received a “letter of counseling.” Carey was promoted to two-star in November 2011 when he served as deputy director of command, control and nuclear operations at the Pentagon.
The inspector general report said that Carey: was publicly drunk on the flight over and during the stay in Russia; made repeated statements on subjects such as Edward Snowden and Syria that were not “well received” by Russian leaders; publicly flaunted his authority as commander of a nuclear force during an airport delay; was “pouting and sulking” during tours with Russian officials and delayed activities on two days after staying out late drinking.
The inspector general report, filed in October and released Thursday, said several Defense Department officials on the trip expressed concern about how Carey acted during the trip.
Carey had been selected to lead the U.S. group that traveled to Moscow on July 14 for the July 16-17 Bilateral Presidential Commission, Military Cooperation Working Groups event hosted by the Russian Ministry of Defense. He was briefed at the Pentagon before leaving on July 14.
On Oct. 11, Air Force Global Strike Command announced that Carey had been removed from command of 20th Air Force after a “loss of trust and confidence” in his leadership and judgment, but did not provide an explanation at the time.
In a statement Thursday, Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, said that the Russia trip was “an unfortunate incident.”
“Major General Carey has otherwise served the nation extremely well,” Shelton said. “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,” he said, referring to the letter of counseling.
Carey would not comment in the report, according to an Air Force Space Command spokesman.
Through interviews with witnesses and Carey himself, the inspector general formed a timeline of Carey’s actions:
* July 14: Carey flew from Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., to Zurich, Switzerland, on his way to the meeting. During an extended layover, Carey was seen drinking and at one point “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,” according to witnesses.
* July 15: The U.S. delegation arrived at a Marriott hotel in Moscow and met in an executive lounge. Carey reportedly had several beers and “again, started in on the very loud discussions about being in charge of the only operationally deployed force and saving the world.” He began saying the airmen in his command have the lowest morale of any in the Air Force.
After the executive lounge meeting, Carey and another member of the delegation went to a rooftop bar at a Ritz-Carlton hotel. There, Carey and the other member of the delegation drank “casually” and met women from the United Kingdom. Carey returned to his hotel somewhere between 2:30 a.m. and 5 a.m., according to the IG report.
* July 16: Carey reportedly showed up for departure from the hotel 45 minutes late. At the initial briefing with the Russians, his behavior was reported to be rude and he was interrupting translations of the briefing.
During a lunch banquet, there were nine toasts with vodka, though the delegation was able to politely refuse the drinks. One lieutenant colonel told the IG that “the general, it looked like it hit him pretty hard but he wasn’t out of control or that but he did look like he had quite a few at the table there while we ate.”
During the lunch, Carey gave a toast that reportedly included the comments about Syria and Snowden that were not well received.
The group toured a monastery, where witnesses said Carey showed effects of the alcohol and interrupted the tour guide.
During a tour of the Red Square, Carey reportedly held up the group and was “sulking,” saying that he was displeased with how the day went and that he wouldn’t attend the next day.
That night, the group went to a restaurant for dinner. The restaurant, La Cantina, was suggested by Carey because he and another member of the delegation tried to go there the night before and “the General really wanted to see this Beatles cover band.” Carey reportedly tried to sing with the band, and asked if he could play the guitar.
During dinner, the women from the night before arrived. One kissed the general on the cheek, and they went to another table and eventually danced. Witnesses said Carey spoke about being someone of importance in the security business.
“It was notable to the IG that a discussion was had, with two foreign national women, which could easily be deduced that Maj Gen Carey was someone of importance, that Maj Gen Carey was probably in the Air Force, and that he was in Russia on official business,” the IG report states.
The group went out after dinner and arrived back at the hotel at 3 a.m.
* July 17: The group again left late, about 15 minutes, because of Carey, the report states. During the morning briefing for the meeting, Carey was reportedly again rude to a translator. During a lunch banquet, there were approximately 25 toasts, which Carey reportedly repeatedly interrupted.
“Maj Gen Carey stated that he only had about a half a dozen shots or 8 ounces and sippedon some toasts and finished his glass on others,” the report states. “He also stated that he didn’t remember the particulars of any of his toasts other than them being about camaraderie. When asked if he was intoxicated when he left the banquet he declined to answer.”
Back at the hotel, Carey had drinks in the lobby until approximately 4 a.m. with a lieutenant colonel and a woman who worked in the hotel’s cigar shop. Carey said that the “cigar sales lady’ spent most of the night with them and, “She was asking questions about physics and optics and I was like, dude, this doesn’t normally happen.” Carey turned in her business card to OSI when he returned, saying he had concerns about her intentions.
* July 18: The group left for the airport and returned home without incident.
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