A group of US Air Force air men who were part of an elite squad responsible for safeguarding America's nuclear weapons have been busted for using and distributing the hallucinogen LSD and other drugs, according to the Associated Press, which published details from several courts martial involving members of the purported ring.
Though most of the conspirators got off with a slap on the wrist, news of the drug ring, which was busted at F.E. Warren Air Force Base back in March 2016, is still cause for alarm.
"Although this sounds like something from a movie, it isn’t," said Capt. Charles Grimsley, the lead prosecutor of one of several courts martial.
At times, the AP report reads like an advertisement for LSD, or "Acid" as it's more popularly known. During one courts martial, the air man on trial described their experiences using the drug. One described "bad trips" that led to intense feelings of paranoia. Others described pleasurable sounds, colors and sensations.
"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.
Ultimately, the group was undone by a questionable Snapchat post that piqued the interest of Air Force investigators. Investigators first approached Nickolos A Harris, who eventually took the fall as the ring leader because most of the activity centered around his apartment. Harris was also responsible for procuring most of the drugs from civilians in the Denver, Colo. area.
Harris confessed to his crimes when summoned for questioning by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, then struck a deal where he ratted on 10 other airmen to whom he had sold the drug. Harris was eventually sentenced to five months confinement, as well as 15 days hard labor. However, thanks to his cooperation, he managed to avoid a punitive discharge - though he did pay a more than $5,000 fine in the form of forgone wages.
Airman 1st Class Nickolos A. Harris, said to be the leader of the drug ring, testified that he had no trouble getting LSD and other drugs from civilian sources. He pleaded guilty to using and distributing LSD and using ecstasy, cocaine and marijuana.
He acknowledged using LSD eight times and distributing LSD multiple times to fellow airmen at parties in Denver and other locations from spring 2015 to early 2016.
"I absolutely just loved altering my mind," he told the military judge, blaming his decisions to use hallucinogens and other drugs on his addictive personality.
Most of the air men involved were from two security units at FE Warren: The 790th Missile Security Forces Squad and the 90th Security Forces Squad. Members of the ring would meet at Harris's apartment, where they would indulge in drug use. Ironically, Harris had two rules: No social media and "no bad trips."
For the inexperienced members of the drug ring, Harris, the ringleader, had set out several "rules" for LSD use at a gathering of several airmen in a Cheyenne apartment in late 2015 that was recorded on video. Rule No. 1: "No social media at all." He added: "No bad trips. Everybody’s happy right now. Let’s keep it that way."
But social media proved their undoing. In March 2016, one member posted a Snapchat video of himself smoking marijuana, setting Air Force investigators on their trail
The men acknowledged that, by taking the drugs, they had put their country in danger. Air man Kyle Morrison, another member of the ring, acknowledged during his court martial that he wouldn't have been able to carry out his duties if called upon to do so while under the influence of LSD. Though it's unclear if any of the ring ever ingested the drugs shortly before reporting for duty. Some members of the ring also indulged in smoking marijuana and using cocaine.
Disciplinary actions were taken against 14 air men, while two were acquitted during their courts martial. Three suspects weren't charged.