Deputy Commander in Iraq Misused Staff for Personal Tasks

Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert B. Neller (left), and Brigadier Gen. Rick Uribe (right), the deputy commanding general of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, observe an F-35B at Naval Air Station El Centro, California, June 9, 2018.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Victoria Decker

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Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert B. Neller (left), and Brigadier Gen. Rick Uribe (right), the deputy commanding general of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, observe an F-35B at Naval Air Station El Centro, California, June 9, 2018.

IG absolves Brig. Gen. Rick Uribe of charges he wore unearned medals and skipped weigh-ins.

The Marine Corps Deputy Commanding General for U.S. operations in Iraq required a female aide to perform personal tasks outside prescribed duties, a watchdog found, substantiating complaints about errands as petty as fetching snacks, picking up his laundry, arranging delivery of his special toothpaste and making gym reservations.

Baghdad-based Brig. Gen. Rick Uribe, according to a report released on Thursday by the Defense Department Inspector General, was guilty of soliciting and accepting gifts from lower-ranking officers and other infractions originally reported by an anonymous tipster. He routinely borrowed money from subordinates and was slow to pay back the loans or failed to reimburse the subordinates at all, the IG found. But despite this “habitual pattern,” the IG found no evidence to support allegations that Uribe skipped required weigh-ins or wore unearned medals.

In a probe that began in August 2017, the IG conducted 23 interviews to review Uribe’s behavior while he directed operations in Iraq between May 2016 and June 2017. The investigators concluded that Uribe violated the Joint Ethics Regulation in asking or permitting his aide to use official time to:

“(1) pick up BGen Uribe’s laundry, (2) remove and turn in BGen Uribe’s bedsheets for cleaning, (3) obtain BGen Uribe’s meals, (4) provide BGen Uribe with personal items such as snacks, (5) send [out] BGen Uribe’s customized t-shirts, (6) draft BGen Uribe’s unofficial correspondence; (7), reserve gym equipment for BGen Uribe’s use, (8) arrange delivery of BGen Uribe’s prescription toothpaste to Iraq, and (9) collect financial and personal information about BGen Uribe’s to complete required military paperwork.”

Uribe, previously inspector general for the Marine Corps, was responsible for the aide’s official time, and both had responsibilities for reviewing and approving actions during combat operations, the IG noted. His predecessor in Iraq had neither requested nor required his aide de camp to perform such errands.

As a former IG himself, the report added, Uribe “had the responsibility to investigate ethical violations involving misuse of subordinates, and to set a personal example.”

The investigators found that poor paper and digital documentation had cast some doubt on the medals given to others, but they found no evidence that those Uribe was wearing were inappropriate.

In addition, “We concluded that [Brig. Gen.] Uribe did not violate Marine Corps personnel weigh-in requirements,” the report said. The complaint alleged he had “ordered a marine he considered to be overweight” as well as other marines to weigh in before redeployment to the United States, while failing to properly weigh in himself at the authorized location. Nonetheless, the IG found he acted in accordance with applicable standards, the report said.

In response to a draft of the report, Uribe said he chose his aide de camp because she “was smart, resourceful, motivated and mature.” He said he trusted that “she would tell me if we were doing something improper. I was a frocked brigadier general who had never had an aide and had not received any instruction or guidance beyond a few general slides about the use of aides,” he wrote.

Uribe added that “where I would never think to engage in these activities in garrison, in the fog of the combat zone, it seemed acceptable somehow. I have learned a great deal from this process and will be much more attentive to these issues in the future.”

The IG recommended that the Commandant of the Marine Corps take appropriate action.

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