-- Fourteen airmen at an Air Force nuclear missile base in Wyoming are under investigation for "illegal drug activity" while off duty, military officials said today.
The 14 junior enlisted airmen are all members of the security unit tasked with securing F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming and the missile silos that contain Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, officials said.
"I was informed this past Tuesday that the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at F.E. Warren was investigating 14 enlisted airmen of illegal drug activity," said Gen. Robin Rand, the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command.
"These 14 airmen are assigned to the 90th Security Forces Group and their duties include protecting the base and the surrounding missile complex at F.E. Warren," Rand said. The base is located a few miles north of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and is home to the 90th Missile Wing that controls a network of launch officers stationed in underground silos spread throughout the neighboring countryside."
It is one of the three bases that house the Air Force's fleet of 450 nuclear-armed Minuteman III ICBMs -- the other two are Malmstrom AFB in Montana and Minot AFB in North Dakota, Aur Force officials said.
"The drug allegations involving these 14 airmen are credible," Rand said. "Each of these 14 airmen who are presumed innocent unless proven guilty have been removed from their duties pending the investigation's outcome."
"This has not an operational impact on the 90th Missile Wing," Rand said.
The investigation began after a member of the unit stepped forward with suspicions of illegal drug activity by another airman. The airmen are characterized as being junior enlisted personnel including the ranks of Airman, Airman First Class and Senior Airman.
Rand said the illegal drug activity occurred while the 14 airmen were off duty. He declined to describe what types of drugs were involved or whether drug sales were part of the investigation.
The 90th Security Forces Group consists of 1,300 personnel at the base, 1,000 of whom are enlisted personnel. Rand stressed that he commands 31,000 airmen, “the vast majority” of whom meet or exceed the standards required of them.
Rand characterized the investigation as being in its preliminary stages but that it was "a high priority."
The Air Force's missile fleet came under intense scrutiny two years ago when a cheating scandal involving 100 launch officers was discovered at Malmstrom AFB. Nine officers at the base were eventually fired from their posts because of the cheating that occurred on their watch.
The cheating investigation eventually included the other two bases and led to a command-wide review that led to widespread changes in the "missileer" force.
That cheating investigation was discovered as a result of an investigation of illegal drug possession, officials said.
Rand said today he saw no links between the new investigation and the prior incidents two years ago.