Senior Air Force General Fired From Pentagon Job for 'Unprofessional Relationship'

A senior Air Force general has been fired from a top job at the Pentagon after an investigation revealed that emails he had exchanged with a female Lieutenant Colonel indicated an "unprofessional relationship."

Lieutenant General John Hesterman was removed from his post on Thursday as the Air Force Assistant Vice-Chief of Staff, and he has submitted his retirement papers.

According to a statement released by the Air Force, an investigation by the Air Force's Inspector General found that the email exchanges five years ago "constituted an unprofessional relationship."

The investigation did not uncover any additional misconduct.

The case was referred to the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, General David L. Goldfein, who issued Hesterman a letter of reprimand. That kind of administrative action is typically a career ending move, particularly for senior military officers.

"Hesterman relinquished his duties and was removed as the Assistant Vice Chief of Staff," said the statement. The three star general had assumed that post last summer after having been in charge of Air Forces Central Command where he conducted the air campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The Inspector General investigation was launched last summer after the Inspector General received an anonymous allegation that Hesterman had engaged in an inappropriate relationship.

Nine email chains over a span of several years were submitted to back up the allegations. According to a redacted copy of the Inspector General's investigation released Thursday by the Air Force, investigators determined that the first three email chains from the summer of 2008 indicated that "Hesterman mentored" the female Lieutenant Colonel.

A second set of three emails from 2010 "indicate a relationship that goes beyond professional friendship and mentoring." Those emails included exchanges from Hesterman such as "I miss you Gorgeous," "thinking of you often," "thinking of you lots," and "you have no idea how much I would like to spend some time with you."

The third set of emails from late 2010 to early 2011 contained language similar to the second set but "only more troubling" said the report. The third set "strongly indicates a relationship that clearly exceeds the limits that one would expect between two married Air Force officers not married to each other."

When Hesterman later met with investigators, he downplayed his relationship with the female officer and said that though he did not doubt having written some of the emails, but he did not recall writing them "with such words."

The investigation concluded that "The preponderance of the evidence, as highlighted by a string of suggestive emails,supports the conclusion that Lt. Gen Hesterman's actions constituted an unprofessional relationship with then {redacted}" And that "they compromised his standing as an officer and gentleman."

The Air Force is also determining whether Hesterman will be allowed to retire at his current three-star rank.