A senior Air Force commander was stripped of his duties for having an affair with a civilian woman, Air Force officials announced Monday.
Lt. Gen. Thomas R. Griffith, commander of the 12th Air Force and U.S. Southern Command Air Forces - which includes 530 aircraft and 43,000 people - was removed because his commander has “lost confidence in Griffith’s ability to command due to inappropriate personal conduct,” a statement released by the Air Combat Command said.
“The rules on personal conduct are such that officers must lead by example,” a senior defense official said. “It’s standard practice for an officer to be relieved for this.” But it is unusual for details of such incidents to become public.
The inspector general is conducting an investigation into Griffith’s affair, but an Air Force official who asked not to be named said Griffith, who is married, has not been accused of any criminal or financial wrongdoing or of sexual harassment.
The investigation “is a routine action, if nothing more than to document what the situation is,” said another official. Its findings will be used to determine whether Griffith should be removed “for cause,” which would amount to a disciplinary action.
Senior commanding officers are permitted to remove subordinate commanders for almost any reason that causes them to lose confidence in their judgment.
Fairchild Air Force Base was part of the 12th Air Force when one of its B-52s crashed last June. Although the base was changed to an Air Mobility Command facility in July, Griffith’s staff investigated the crash.
Griffith announced the findings of those investigators at a news conference at Fairchild. The crash, which killed the four-member crew, was blamed on a pilot who had violated safety rules and base leaders who had failed to rein him in.
Later, Griffith overrode the recommendation of his legal staff and ordered a court-martial for Col. William Pellerin, Fairchild’s operations commander at the time of the crash. Pellerin pleaded guilty last month to two counts of dereliction of duty stemming from the crash, was fined $7,500 and given a written reprimand.
Griffith, whose responsibility included Air Force operations throughout Latin America, has become a special assistant to Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, commander of Air Force Command, who removed Griffith from his job.
Air Force officials said the announcement has nothing do with the military’s crackdown on sexual harassment but that Griffith’s conduct is unacceptable in an officer of his rank.
“There is nothing unusual about any aspect of the case,” the official said.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Dana Priest The Washington Post Staff writer Jim Camden contributed to this report.