RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — An Air Force officer who engaged in an unprofessional relationship with an airman 20 years his junior while commanding a small expeditionary base in Africa will be forced out of the service following a general court-martial last week.
A military judge ruled late Friday that Lt Col Denis Paquette should be dismissed from the service, the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge for enlisted personnel. The dismissal means that Paquette, a C-17 pilot and married father with more than 18 years in the Air Force, won’t be eligible for retirement benefits.
Paquette chose to have his case decided by a military judge. He pleaded guilty to fraternization; violating a lawful general order on one occasion by drinking more than two alcoholic drinks at a deployed location in less than 24 hours; and to impeding an investigation.
Stars & Stripes reported that prosecutors in the case said ”Paquette ran the base like a ‘summer camp’ and a ‘frat house.’”
“It starts out with a mentorship but it goes way, way, way over the line after that,” said Maj Rachel Lyons, senior trial counsel for the Air Force, in court. “After that, he uses personal knowledge of her family to get closer to her … and to try to take the relationship to the next level.”
When others in the camp became uncomfortable with how much time the two were spending together, the two were advised to limit their personal contact, according to testimony. To continue communicating out of the public eye, the two began writing what prosecutors called “love letters” to each other, while also still spending time together, including at a party one night in July where both were said to be drinking.
Paquette has more than 18 years in the Air Force, but his dismissal means he will not be eligible for retirement benefits.