As a reminder that even our troops are human and thus, susceptible to the temptations that drugs present from time to time, we refer to a report that a group of US Air Force airmen routinely engaged in mind-altering substances to, perhaps, make their job less monotonous.
At the very least, the airmen’s supply of hallucinogens made their jobs a bit more trippy.
‘One airman said he felt paranoia. Another marveled at the vibrant colors. A third admitted, “I absolutely just loved altering my mind.”’ (AP)
Depending on your viewpoint regarding the legitimacy of danger posed by hallucinogenic drugs like LSD on those who are experienced users equipped with a sturdy frame of mind, it is either concerning or amusing that those military men caught using numerous mind-altering substances were tasked with protecting a nuclear weapons base located at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
It’s well-known that the life of a military man or woman is often monotonous, and the pay is far from stellar. With that said, it’s not commendable or forgivable that such a story would emerge. It’s an undoubtedly embarrassing matter for the military higher-ups, and for those involved.
But, considering the base’s location in entertainment-starved Cheyenne and the reality that most in the Air Force could use additional pocket change, the whole scenario is, viewed through an empathetic lens, somewhat understandable.
If you’re wondering how using LSD pertains to the fact that the military is a modestly paying profession, there’s one fact that can’t be left out. These airmen weren’t just purchasing and using mind-altering drugs. Some were selling them, too.
‘Air Force records obtained by The Associated Press show they bought, distributed and used the hallucinogen LSD and other mind-altering illegal drugs as part of a ring that operated undetected for months…’ (AP)
After being alerted to the nefarious activities because of a slip-up on social media by a participating member, it wasn’t long before the resource-rich investigative arm of the Air Force was deployed. The scrutiny was enough for one of the airmen to pack up and hoof it to Mexico. Fourteen others were disciplined, and six were convicted by court martial of varying levels of participation in the ring after it was busted in March 2016.
None of the accused or convicted are thought to have used LSD while on duty, an agreed-upon conclusion which makes the entire story feel a bit less serious. Whether soldiers used weekend passes to hit up the local Grateful Dead cover band live show or simply took a meandering trip (get it?) through the wilderness, it’s tempting to dismiss the LSD use as harmless shenanigans.
But, the sale of any kind of illegal drug, and the reality that perception matters greatly in the armed forces, especially when we’re talking about the guardianship of Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles, it was inevitable that, if caught, these airmen knew they’d be in deep shit.
The service members accused of involvement in the LSD ring 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. (AP)
Plus, there’s the eyebrow-raising fact that LSD and other hallucinogens considered to be less addictive than many other drugs weren’t the only vice in question.
‘Documents obtained by the AP over the past two years through the Freedom of Information Act tell a sordid tale of off-duty use of LSD, cocaine and other drugs in 2015 and 2016 by airmen who were supposed to be held to strict behavioral standards because of their role in securing the weapons.’
As the discussion of nuclear weapons, and by extension the scrutiny of nuclear-armed nations’ arsenals, become increasingly prevalent, it’s apparent that these airmen picked the wrong era in which to participate in a drug ring of any sort. While the missile force is typically considered a relatively unimportant outpost of military service, the time are a-changin’.
The military was never going to tolerate such behavior, and even the most progressive drug advocates would likely take pause before attempting to explain why even off-duty airmen should be let off the hook for this offense. After all, in the worst case of scenarios, a recall to duty of an unsuspecting soldier could result in, essentially, a Dead Head having access to 1/3 of America’s Minuteman 3 nuclear missile arsenal.
That said, it’s a wonder that the hippy airmen were even caught. In 2006, the Pentagon ended the military’s screening for LSD, as positive samples had become so infrequent that testing was deemed not worth the cost. With that in mind, it’s hard to believe that more military personnel aren’t using LSD and other un-tested hallucinogens during their time off. But an utterly-21st century means of getting caught would prove to be their downfall.
‘Social media proved their undoing. In March 2016, one member posted a Snapchat video of himself smoking marijuana, setting Air Force investigators on their trail.’
Nickolos A. Harris is said to be the ringleader of the operation, pleading guilty to using and distributing LSD, while also admitting to using cocaine, ecstasy, and marijuana. His punishment is not light: 12 months in jail as well as other undisclosed punishments. The lead prosecutor was seeking 42 months, an indication of how seriously the Air Force takes the public embarrassment of soldiers using hallucinogens both on and off of a nuclear base, but Harris ultimately received only a year, while avoiding a punitive discharge.
Meanwhile, the airman who fled to Mexico eventually gave himself up, was subject to the drug-related penalties and also slapped with a desertion charge.
Which all goes to show, if you’re intent on using hallucinogens and/or other drugs, go be a snowboarding instructor or concert promoter. Signing up to guard a nuclear arsenal and acid tripping just don’t jive, man.