Just recently, it was revealed in 2016, military officials in the United States Air Force (USAF) took disciplinary action against multiple on-duty security troops tasked with defending the missiles and nuclear weapons at F. E. Warren Air Force Base, a highly secure “on alert” nuclear missile base near Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Apparently, they were all busted and subsequently punished for being involved in a drug ring, which went on undetected for several months between 2015 and 2016. It bought, distributed, and consumed several illicit substances, such as cocaine, ecstasy, and perhaps most shockingly, the hallucinogen lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).
According to USAF records obtained over the last two years by The Associated Press, a well-known news agency, most of the individuals who were disciplined were “from the 90th Missile Wing, which operates one-third of the 400 Minuteman 3 missiles that stand ‘on alert’ 24/7 in underground silos scattered across the northern Great Plains,” or either part of the 790th Missile Security Forces Squadron or the 90th Security Forces Squadron.
Investigators reportedly first began looking into the drug ring connected to the missile wing when one of the individuals involved shared a video of himself smoking cannabis on Snapchat. After learning about the video posted to the social media website, they probed a bit deeper and learned about the drug ring and his involvement with it.
While exploring further, military officials discovered that LSD and other drugs were also used both on and off base by several members of the 790th and 90th squadrons. On top of that, investigators also found out that several civilians, including some who had just left the USAF, had consumed LSD with them.
Upon investigating the drug ring even further, military officials also found a video that the supposed ringleader, Airman 1st Class Nickolos A. Harris, who eventually pleaded guilty to “using and distributing LSD and using ecstasy, cocaine, and marijuana,” had recorded setting out several “rules” for those interested in consuming LSD at an apartment in Cheyenne.
“No social media at all,” explained Harris in the video. “No bad trips. Everybody’s happy right now. Let’s keep it that way,” he added.
As their investigation drew to a close, Airman 1st Class Devin R. Hagarty, who was one of the service members accused, completely panicked and fled to Mexico. Eventually, though, Hagarty turned himself in and was charged with “desertion.” He was later convicted and sentenced to 13 months in a military jail.
During the court-martial hearings for the other individuals, several of those who testified offered detailed descriptions of the experiences that they had while under the influence of the substances.
“I felt paranoia, panic [for hours],” explained Airman 1st Class Tommy N. Ashworth while speaking at his own trial about an uncomfortable LSD experience that he had while off duty.
“I didn’t know if I was going to die that night or not,” Ashworth recollected while talking about another one of his experiences with LSD during another airman’s testimony. “[It felt] almost as if I was going to have like a heart attack or a heat stroke,” he added while describing the third time that he had consumed it.
“Minutes felt like hours, colors seemed more vibrant and clear. In general, I felt more alive,” recalled Airman Basic Kyle S. Morrison, who seemed to have a much more positive LSD experience.
When pressed, Morrison later mentioned that it wasn’t his first time-consuming LSD. He apparently also consumed the illicit substance back in high school but was supposedly told by a recruiter to lie about it.
After confessing, Morrison became an informant for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and helped them obtain “legally admissible evidence against 10 other airmen.” He then testified for the office against the other airmen to avoid being discharged and was later sentenced to “five months’ confinement, 15 days of hard labor, and loss of $5,200 in pay.”
Like Morrison, Harris, who told the military judge, “I absolutely just loved altering my mind,” also managed to avoid a punitive discharge. Instead, he was sentenced to a mere 12 months in jail even though Air Force Capt. C. Rhodes Berry, who was the lead prosecutor in the case, had demanded that he “be locked up for 42 months including nine months for the ‘aggravating circumstance’ of undercutting public trust by using hallucinogens and other drugs on a nuclear weapons base.”
In defense of his request, Berry stated, “I cannot think of anything more aggravating than being the ringleader of a drug ring on F.E. Warren Air Force Base.”
Following the investigation and subsequent trials, a total of fourteen airmen ended up being disciplined. Out of the fourteen, six of them were ultimately convicted in their court-martial hearings.
When pressed for additional details about the matter, USAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Uriah L. Orland, refused to provide much more information aside from making it clear that the illegal activity took place during off-duty hours.
“There are multiple checks to ensure airmen who report for duty are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and are able to execute the mission safely, securely and effectively,” explained Orland.
Disturbingly, the members of the F.E. Warren drug ring aren’t the only ones to be recently disciplined for engaging in misconduct. Several months ago, two Navy pilots stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island were disciplined by the military branch for using the contrails from the jet that they were flying to draw a penis in the sky above Okanogan County, Washington.
Specifically, Vice Admiral Mike Shoemaker, the commander of Naval Air Forces, personally placed both air force pilots at the naval base on probationary status for six months for flying “an EA-18G Growler in the shape of a penis, creating the outline in the sky with the exhaust of the plane.”
Clearly, not everyone in the military lives up to the expectations that are placed on them. Fortunately, though, when they fail to do so, they end up receiving some sort of punishment by those in charge.