Marine General Used His Aide as A.T.M., Laundry Service and Gym Attendant – The New York Times

Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Rick Uribe speaking to a reporter in 2017.CreditUnited States Navy

A Marine general in charge of approving airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq violated ethics rules when he had a junior officer run personal errands for him and lend him cash, the Pentagon’s inspector general reported on July 5. The I.G. report found that Brig. Gen. Rick Uribe requested or allowed his aide, who was not named, to pick up his laundry, deliver meals and snacks, arrange for delivery of his prescription toothpaste to Iraq and handle his personal correspondence, among other tasks, while he was deputy commanding general of operations and director of joint anti-ISIS operations between May 2016 and June 2017. On multiple occasions, he also ordered her to stand next to and reserve gym equipment that he wanted to use, sometimes making her wait up to 40 minutes while he was called away.

Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Rick Uribe (right) with commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert B. Neller (left), in June 2018.CreditUnited States Marine Corps

Investigators first became aware of the claims through a hotline tip in June 2017, and also substantiated claims that Uribe had taken “cash loans” from his aide and allowed her to pay for his $6 haircuts. Uribe told investigators that if his aide “let me borrow money for my first three haircuts, then I must not have had any cash” when he arrived in Iraq. Investigators noted that Uribe should have been able to get cash for himself. In another instance described by the aide, Uribe asked her to change bedsheets that he had sweated through, a task she called “disgusting.” The aide characterized her “entire existence” as being “centered on personal servitude.” Other Marines serving alongside Uribe’s aide in Iraq noticed that the junior officer’s duties seemed to be unusual. “I can 100 percent tell you that there were times I thought [the aide] was his servant,” one witness told investigators.

Uribe, who previously served as inspector general for the Marine Corps in 2015 and 2016, told investigators that he did not order his aide to handle his personal errands and that she was “a go-getter and get-it-done type of Marine,” according to the report. Uribe also said her assistance helped him focus on his job of “killing and the annihilation of ISIS/ISIL from Iraq.”

Uribe’s aide wasn’t the only person with whom he crossed professional boundaries, according to the report. The general asked an unnamed lieutenant colonel, a former subordinate, to mail him $150 in coffee and chocolates — a request that would be considered ethical only if the two men had a longstanding friendship. “[Uribe] doesn’t consider me anything other than a Marine who worked for him,” the lieutenant colonel told investigators. The report recommended that Uribe reimburse the $150. The issue of taking money from a subordinate and not repaying him or her, as Uribe repeatedly did, is a basic violation of military ethics. The substantiated claims are all the more striking because Uribe himself served as the Marine Corps’ own inspector general before his deployment to Iraq, and would have been responsible for investigations into what constitutes ethical behavior for senior officers. He also attended two ethics courses in 2015 that included presentations about the use of officer aides and accepting gifts.

The inspector-general report contrasts Uribe’s actions with those of his predecessor in Baghdad, William F. Mullen III, now a major general. Mullen told investigators that his duties in Iraq were “exactly the same” as Uribe’s. Mullen’s aide said that at no time during their tour together in Iraq did he ever have to drop off Mullen’s laundry or obtain meals for him. Uribe defended himself by saying he was busier than Mullen during his time in Iraq, even though a performance review for that tour states that Mullen was at that time in “the single most demanding assignment any Marine Corps brigadier general has held during this period.”

In documenting the findings, the inspector-general report recommended that Uribe’s “supervisor take appropriate action,” although it did not provide specific details on what those actions should be. Uribe is currently a deputy commanding general of the First Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton in California. “The Department of Defense Inspector General has substantiated allegations against Brig. Gen. Rick A. Uribe,” said Lt. Col. Curtis L. Hill, a spokesman for Marine Forces Pacific. “The Marine Corps takes all allegations of misconduct seriously, and this case is being adjudicated by the chain of command.” Hill would not say whether Uribe is being reassigned from his current posting.

Serving as an aide to a general officer is often considered a career-enhancing position for the brightest and most capable junior officers, during which time they get a front-row seat to the closed-door deliberations of generals and admirals. When Uribe’s aide was asked what would have happened if she had not followed through with his requests, she answered, “I would have been screwed.”

Source: Marine General Used His Aide as A.T.M., Laundry Service and Gym Attendant – The New York Times

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