2 US missile officers face illegal drug rap

2015-04-25 08:15
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Washington - Two more US Air Force nuclear missile launch officers have been charged with illegal drug use in cases stemming from an investigation that led to the disclosure last year of a separate exam-cheating scandal, the Air Force said on Friday.

1st Lieutenant Michael Alonso and 1st Lieutenant Lantz Balthazar, both members of the 12th Missile Squadron at the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, face hearings to determine whether they will be court-martialed. One of their fellow missile officers who was a target of the same investigation pleaded guilty to illegal drug use in January and was kicked out of the Air Force.

The Malmstrom missile wing operates 150 of the Air Force's 450 Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. Launch officers are trained to operate ICBMs that are armed with nuclear warheads and are on constant alert for possible launch.

Alonso was charged with violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for illegal possession, use and distribution of ecstasy and for "conspiracy related to the drug offenses," according to Malmstrom spokesman Josh Aycock.

Balthazar was charged with illegal possession, use and distribution of ecstasy and cocaine and for conspiracy related to the drug offenses. He also was charged with illegal use of Pentedrone, which Aycock said is commonly called bath salts.

Both officers were charged on 17 April.

Aycock said their cases will be reviewed at Article 32 hearings, which are akin to a civilian grand jury proceeding, to determine whether there is enough criminal evidence to warrant a court-martial. The hearings have not been scheduled, Aycock said.

Alonso and Balthazar were among three Minuteman 3 launch officers at Malmstrom who were under investigation for illegal drug use. The other, 2nd Lieutenant Nicole Dalmazzi, was charged in December and court-martialed in January.

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