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Air Force Fires Top U.S. Missile Commander

Posted: October 11, 2013

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Maj. Gen. Michael Carey led the 20th Air Force, which maintains and operates the country's land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles. He was relieved of his command over an issue concerning his behavior while on temporary assignment.

The launch-key mechanism at the deactivated Delta Nine Launch Facility near Wall, S.D., in 2002.

The launch-key mechanism at the deactivated Delta Nine Launch Facility near Wall, S.D., in 2002.

The Air Force two-star general in charge of the country's land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles has been relieved of his command for what's being described as questionable behavior during a temporary duty assignment.

Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, who led the 20th Air Force, headquartered at Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., has been dismissed, according to a statement issued by the Air Force Global Strike Command.

Carey's boss, Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, made the decision "due to a loss of trust and confidence in his leadership and judgement," according to the statement. It was based on "information from an Inspector General investigation into Carey's behavior during a temporary duty assignment. The allegations are not related to operational readiness or the inspection results of any 20th AF unit, nor do they involve sexual misconduct."

"20th AF continues to execute its mission of around-the-clock nuclear deterrence in a safe, secure and effective manner," Kowalski said in the statement. "It's unfortunate that I've had to relieve an officer who's had an otherwise distinctive career spanning 35 years of commendable service."

The 20th Air Force maintains and operates the nation's ICBM force.

Carey's firing on Friday follows a series of black marks against the missile command.

In March, an inspection of the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, which controls one-third of the nation's land-based ICBMs, resulted in poor reviews when it came to the unit's mastery of launch operations. Two months later, 17 of the unit's officers were temporarily stripped of their launch authority.

In August, the 341st Missile Wing at the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, which controls another third of the missile force, also failed inspection after making "tactical-level errors during one of several exercises," the Global Strike Command said at the time.

And late last month, Navy Vice Adm. Tim Giardina, the deputy commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, was relieved of his command and reassigned after allegations of his involvement in a scheme to use counterfeit casino chips.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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