The United States Air Force has dismissed nine of its missile commanders in the wake of a cheating scandal that involved the nuclear wing at Malmstrom Air Force base in Great Falls.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said at a Pentagon briefing on Thursday, March 27, that nine officers will be removed from duty.

"Nine officers in leadership positions at Malmstrom were recommended for removal," James said. "One officer submitted his resignation, and will retire, for a total of ten leaders in all. None of these leaders were directly involved in a test compromise, but the commander-directed investigation indicated that they failed to provide adequate oversight of their crew force."

James said the missile base crews were also held responsible.

"As for the missileers, the investigation grew to include over 100 officers that were being investigated as being part of the compromise, however, of that 100, nine were not substantiated, and will be returned to duty," James said.

James said the Air Force commanders have made several recommendations to improve performance and morale in the missile squadrons.

"The key components of this initiative will include a stand-down wingman day to focus every airman on the importance of our core values of integrity and excellence, and evaluating the current curriculum to ensure that our airmen receive training on our core values throughout their career, and not just in the beginning," James said. "We will also launch a core values center on our Air Force portal to provide commanders and NCO's with the tools that they need to reinforce values with our airmen."

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James

Air Force Global Strike Commander Lt. General Stephen Wilson said the discovery of the cheating scandal came as the result of a separate drug investigation.

"This sparked a new investigation that implicated officers for sending, receiving, requesting, or having knowledge of compromised testing materials," Wilson said. "To be more specific, investigators found that four officers were at the center of a ring where test materials were shared through texts or pictures."

Wilson said an investigation resulted in four recommendations to improve performance in the missile wings.

"They include reforming organization culture, empowering crew commanders, improving the quality and purpose of training, and lastly, reforming testing and evaluations," Wilson said.

Air Force Global Strike Commander Lt. General Stephen Wilson

According to the Associated Press, the Air Force says the firings are unprecedented in the history of the intercontinental ballistic missile force, which consists of 450 Minuteman 3 nuclear-tipped missiles at bases in Montana,Wyoming and North Dakota.

No Air Force general is being punished, but Col. Robert Stanley, the top commander at the Montana base, which is where the exam cheating was discovered in January, has resigned.

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