Fourteen members of the Air Force tasked with guarding a nuclear weapons silo in Wyoming were disciplined as part of a drug ring at the base, according to records obtained by the Associated Press and published on Thursday.
The airmen stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base near Cheyenne, Wyoming, were part of the 90th Missile Wing, which is tasked with protecting one-third of the 400 Minuteman nuclear missiles that stand at the ready in underground silos across the plains states. Between 2015 and 2016, service members stationed at the base used LSD, cocaine, and other drugs. Of the 14 service members who were disciplined, six were convicted in courts martial of using or distributing LSD or both.
In transcripts of the proceedings obtained by the AP, service members described tripping balls while off-duty:
“I’m dying!” one airman is quoted as exclaiming, followed by “When is this going to end?” during a “bad trip” on LSD in February 2016 at Curt Gowdy State Park, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of Cheyenne, where F.E. Warren is located. A portion of that episode was video-recorded by one member of the group; a transcript of the audio was included in court records.
Others said they enjoyed the drug.
“Minutes felt like hours, colors seemed more vibrant and clear,” Morrison testified. “In general, I felt more alive.” He said he had used LSD in high school, which could have disqualified him from Air Force service; he said that his recruiter told him he should lie about it and that lying about prior drug use was “normal” in the Air Force.
Still others described what sounds like a very chill time (emphasis added):
Other airmen testified that it was easy to obtain LSD in a liquid form spread on small tabs of perforated white paper. Airmen ingested at least one tab by placing it on their tongue. In one episode summarized by a military judge at [Airman 1st Class Nickolos A.] Harris’ court martial, he and other airmen watched YouTube videos and “then went longboarding on the streets of Denver while high on LSD.”
Investigators were clued into the airmens’ drug use after one of them posted a Snapchat video smoking weed, according to documents obtained by the AP through a Freedom of Information Act request. One of the accused airmen, fearing retribution, packed his backpack with cash, texted his mother, and absconded to Mexico.
According to the Air Force, none of the airmen used drugs while on the job. Still, the story does not look great for an organization responsible for guarding the United States’ cache of nuclear weapons, particularly at a time when the president regularly threatens to unleash nuclear hellfire on his enemies.
I can’t help feeling a little sympathetic for the airmen implicated in this story. Imagine being stationed in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming, with little to entertain you aside from Xbox and binge drinking. In the face of such a bleak day-to-day job, I’d probably turn to harder stuff, too. Let he who has not made an ill-advised social media post cast the first stone.