Politics

Pentagon Slams General For Making His Aide Pick Up Laundry, Mail Toothpaste To Iraq

U.S. Marine Corps photo/ Sgt. April L. Price

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The highest ranking Marine in Iraq in 2017 used his aide as something like a personal servant against military protocol to fetch his meals, pick up his laundry and change his sheets, according to a Pentagon inspector general report released Thursday.

Brig. Gen. Rick Uribe, currently stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, was the director of the Baghdad Combined Joint Operations Center for Operation Inherent Resolve in 2016 and 2017, during one of the most active periods in the fight against the Islamic State. But while directing the fight, Uribe broke with military protocol and the traditions of his predecessor, Maj. Gen. William F. Mullen III, in allowing his aide to fetch his meals, pick up his laundry, change his sheets, loan him cash, and pay for his internet, according to the Department of Defense Inspector General (IG).

Directly before deploying to Iraq, Uribe was the inspector general for the Marine Corps, where he was responsible for investigating ethics violations. One witness told the IG that he thought Uribe “would have known better” given his background as a watchdog.

The report is not all bad news for Uribe, however. The IG cleared Uribe of two allegations — that he wore awards he didn’t earn and that he ordered a Marine he considered overweight that he had to undergo weigh-in again before deployment. (RELATED: Marine Commandant Wants To Crack Down On ‘General Jackassery’)

Uribe was in Iraq from April 2016 to June 2017, during the first several months of President Donald Trump’s administration, when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis amped up the airstrikes and offensive operations around the Middle East to give ISIS a good biffing.

“We’re here to defeat them, and we’re going to do it the moral way,” Uribe said of the militants in March 2017.

From the moment Uribe arrived in Iraq with his unnamed female aide, he “showed a habitual pattern of requesting, or permitting, his Aide to use official time to perform tasks and errands for … Uribe other than those required in the performance of the Aide’s official duties,” according to the IG.

In the first week, Uribe asked his aide — who was paid substantially less salary, the IG noted — for money. He only brought $20 in cash to Iraq, he told the IG, intending to use the ATM when he arrived. But his card wouldn’t work at the machine available, so he asked his aide for cash. “I did want to say ‘no,'” the aide told the IG.”I mean, what am I going to do, [say] ‘no, sir’?” She took out $200 from the ATM and gave it to him with the $24 she had in her wallet.

Uribe said the money was for toiletries and haircuts. Uribe gave the aide a check for $224 sometime later. Other Marines the IG interviewed said they brought a decent amount of cash with them, ranging from $200 to $1,000.

Uribe’s aide fetched his meals several times a week, but he said he asked that she pick up whatever she was getting and to not make a special trip. It was all in a spirit of teamwork and collegiality, Uribe told the IG.

“There was nothing more than [sic] I wanted to do than … get some food and go sit down and relax,” Uribe said. “Sometimes you just couldn’t. So you’ve got to look at what we’re doing in Erbil. Again, we were up to 140 something strikes per day and cleaning up East Mosul … I mean I was literally eating standing up and grabbing whatever I could, and then, you know, approving the strike.”

Uribe’s aide told the IG that she “only did personal matters” for Uribe in Iraq. “On a number of occasions, I picked-up [clean] laundry for BGen Uribe, from the laundry service,” she told inspectors, sometimes every three or four days. “I’m doing a lot more stuff like your personal type of items,” she remembered telling Uribe. “Like, that’s not my job as an Aide.” She said Uribe’s only response was “understood.” Most of the time Uribe would drop off his laundry and she would pick it up, but when she and Uribe were briefly stationed in Erbil, he dropped off and picked up his own laundry.

Uribe contended that it was his aide that first suggested she pick up his laundry, and didn’t think she was doing his laundry runs every three or four days. She noticed that “I was having a hard time getting my laundry,” Uribe told inspectors. When she offered to do it for him, he said he replied, “That doesn’t sound right … show me where it says that you’re allowed to do that and make sure that you talk to appropriate personnel.” He said she returned a few days later with justification in the Senior Leader Handbook, but he still told her only to get his laundry when she picked up her own.

The aide said that on three or four occasions, she removed Uribe’s sheets and took them to the laundry. The first time she did so, she made his bed, too, but he told her not to do that again. Most of the time he would remove his sheets and ask her to pick them up, but once she remembers he was ill and “sweated through his sheets” adding to the IG that it was “just disgusting.”

“I don’t have time to [change them],” Uribe said, according to the aide. When she mentioned the sheets were damp with sweat, he confirmed it but said nothing else. “At the end of the day … I’m going to do what I’m asked to do,” the aide told the IG.

The general’s special toothpaste also caused the aide some trouble, even half a world away. “He didn’t bring enough on deployment,” the aide said in an email to a civilian employee with the Department of Defense, and he didn’t have the prescription. The civilian made a special trip to the Pentagon and spent two hours trying to get a prescription filled out. The civilian employee found a nurse, obtained the toothpaste, and mailed it to Iraq. Uribe did not reimburse the $20 in shipping, the IG noted.

The other ways Uribe misused his aide’s time and money detailed in the Pentagon’s report include using the internet she paid for and accepting $150 in chocolates and coffee from a lieutenant colonel and not sharing with the rest of his squad. He would “hoard” the chocolates in “a corner of his office that was strictly his stash,” and never shared the coffee, according to his aide.

Uribe used his aide’s internet for some time, and she thought that they would split the cost.

The press office for Operation Inherent Resolve and Uribe’s current post at Camp Pendleton did not immediately return The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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