The Air Force on Thursday fired nine mid-level nuclear commanders and announced it would discipline dozens of junior officers at a missile base in response to an exam-cheating scandal that officials called unprecedented in the history of America's intercontinental ballistic missile force. A 10th commander, the senior officer at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., resigned and will retire. A text of the resignation letter the officer, Col. Robert Stanley, sent to his command, titled "A Lesson To Remember":
Wing One Colleagues,
Over the past few months, we have been forced to navigate through some of the roughest waters most of us have ever experienced professionally. We've seen the reputation of our beloved wing and America's ICBM mission tarnished because of the extraordinarily selfish actions of officers entrusted with the most powerful weapon system ever devised by man. As you are now learning, the ramifications are dire. Many lives will be permanently changed as a result.
But this costly lesson must not be in vain.
The lesson? Had just one solitary airman spoken up for integrity, our leadership team would have been able to take action immediately.
Tragically, peer pressure and the fear of being an outcast prevailed. As a result, the misconduct had to be inadvertently discovered by OSI agents.
Think of how different the narrative would be had the silent Airman just come forward. That airman would now be lionized as a hero for casting aside his or her own fear of being made an outcast by a few inadequate peers.
That airman would have single-handedly preserved the honor and dignity of Malmstrom and all the wonderful people who make up this incredible wing.
But it didn't happen. Wrong won out over right ... the voice of integrity was silenced ... and the good guy lost at the end of the movie.
This is a wake-up call for everyone who has lost their sense of right and wrong, for those who have become cynical and for those indoctrinated by modern society to acquiesce when faced with bad behavior.
"All that is necessary for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing." I highlighted this old axiom as the main point of my change of command speech a little over a year ago. I implored our formations of airmen that it never be said of Malmstrom that "we did nothing" in the face of evil. I can't imagine a more vivid reinforcement of that lesson than what we're going through now.
As your wing commander, it occurs to me that I've been blessed with the opportunity of a lifetime. It's been one I neither expected nor deserved.
Our amazing airmen and their families, the astoundingly supportive community and the successes of Wing One have far outweighed the bad. Just being allowed to be a small part of your lives is a memory that Cheryl and I will cherish forever. But, like all things of great value, such blessings come with equally great costs. I represent this wing to the world, and we let the American people down on my watch.
With that realization, and the genuine hope that my action will stir even the most apathetic hearts to action, I have decided to volunteer my resignation from this post effective immediately. This request has been accepted. I have also requested, and been approved for, retirement from the United States Air Force. If this sacrifice by Cheryl and me influences just one airman to stand up for what's right the next time they are confronted by immorality, it will have been worth every tear and sleepless night.
But I do have one last command: Each and every one of you must now give your full allegiance, support and enthusiasm to your new commander. I know that you will forge an even stronger team than the one we were so carefully building.
It's been the highest honor of my career to serve with the 341st Missile Wing and the Great Falls community. You will always occupy a special place in our hearts.
Robert W. Stanley II, Colonel, USAF
Commander, 341st Missile Wing
Malmstrom AFB, Montana