Air Force General Court Martialed For ‘Assuming Control’ Of C-17 Too Soon After Drinking


A court martial has fined Air Force Maj. Gen. Phillip Stewart $60,000 and confined him to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, for six months after he flew a C-17 in low-level maneuvers following a night of drinking. In the first court martial of its kind, a jury of eight generals, all of whom outranked Stewart, found him guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer and dereliction of duty by “assuming control” of the transport plane at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma during a trip in April of 2023.

He had earlier admitted to adultery and having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate officer and was found not guilty of sexual assault involving that officer. The charges resulted from that evening and from an earlier encounter in which he invited a female subordinate to spend the night with him at a hotel in Denver on another work trip. Stewart, who commanded the 19th Air Force at the time, was relieved of that command a few days after the Oklahoma evening. The 19th Air Force is in charge of training.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Clearly Stewart has no apparent fear of death, morality, or common sense approaching even that of the

  2. Also, isn’t it Courts-martial as in: Federal courts-martial are governed by the rules of procedure and evidence laid out in the Manual for Courts-Martial, which contains the Rules for Courts-Martial (RCM), Military Rules of Evidence, and other guidance.

    • “Courts-martial” is plural as in: Federal courts-martial are governed by the rules of procedure and evidence.

  3. Well, there goes his chance at a third star. If he had ANY class he’d retire and leave the Air Force. What a great example to his troops he isn’t.

        • Remember the 1994 Fairchild AFB crash with a B-52? The pilot, a Lieutenant Colonel, was known for his breaking flight rules and daredevil flying. Wonder how many others at various ranks have done the same kind of flying.

  4. If that’s his official Air Force headshot you can pretty much tell he hasn’t got his tray table in its fullly upright and locked position.

  5. Given the other admission, I’d question why he wasn’t reduced in rank? This is another case of “Do as I say, not as I do.” An enlisted member would be busted. He got off light IMHO.

  6. So how much was for flying while hungover and how much for pulling rank to get into the pants of a subordinate?
    Guess his time on base will be spent in single officers’ accommodation which should help him save up for the fine.

  7. With that insane smile, he looks like “The Joker” or a classic cartoon character or the much photographed, recently convicted conman & sex offender. Use of this mug shot as his official USAF PR biopic alone indicates some serious competency/judgement issues, not withstanding all that spilled fruit salad on his manly chest. A huge ego and vanity are dangerous things in a man.

  8. I gotta say, for a general’s official AF photo that does make him look a bit goofy. He may be just a fun guy who’s on the wild side of proper behavior. But how he got to two stars doing so is puzzling. He may have been playing lets have some fun for a long time and just getting away with it. I’m going to guess he is a popular guy with his troops. I know one who didn’t make it past Col. who reminds me of this guy completely. His boss told him, as he was getting out, if we had a war to fight I’d keep you forever. But without, there’s nothing I can do with you or for you. It’s been nice.

  9. I have to agree that the picture is goofy. For a senior officer, there were several shots taken and he got to choose which one to use. Most don’t smile, or a small smile. He chose that one.

    Now, that doesn’t have anything to do with the charges. I wasn’t on the court-martial board nor have I read the transcript, so I have no idea what factors were considered in the outcome.

    • That said, “Conduct Unbecoming” (Article 133 of the UCMJ) conviction usually merits dismissal.

    • Well, I’m glad my incredulous reaction to the picture and story was not just me. Regarding the charges and the resulting penalties, i have to believe the jury of his peers – general officers – did not take this lightly. I’m just surprised he was not reduced in rank. Are transcripts of court martial proceedings in fact available to the public? You sound like you might know.

  10. So whether he stays or retires, nevertheless he is or will be getting a handsome salary from the taxpayers.

  11. When I was stationed with a fighter wing in Germany in the 1970s the mantra was “No smoking within 24 hours of flying and no drinking within 50 feet of the aircraft.” I thought those days were long gone, but I guess not.

    • Back in the 76 at 17 years old Private and looking like I was 12 years old, I was allowed to drink on post. Off post too if in uniform (Fort Dix, NJ). Fast forward to 2009. I was a Major and 50 year old Company Commander in the Reserves, headed to my 2nd tour in Iraq. We deployed out of all places, Ft. Dix, NJ. I, nor my troops were allowed to drink, go off post, wear civilian clothes, drive our POVs, etc. Most of the morale building tools I had as a Commander were taken from me (off post privileges, 3 or 4 day pass, allowing them to drink (I haven’t drank in 44 years), the simple things. Did my guys and gals go off post, drink, etc? Only me, my 1SG and my troops know for sure. 😉 All my troops came home with awards. Many BSMs. Not one disciplinary problem because me and my 1SG handled discipline within our company. We conducted almost 600 combat missions and even earned our MUC. My point? When a field grade officer can no longer discipline or award his officers in the simple, traditional ways, something is seriously wrong. Trust is lost. Morale is lost. In my humble opinion.

      • I meant discipline or award his troops. Not only his officers. Heck, everyone knows the troops are the ones that determine the success or failure of any officer. And any officer who doesn’t take care of his troops 1st, we’ll, you know.

  12. I’m embarrassed twice –
    Of course by the lack of professionalism to see a pilot with such blatant disregard for our substance abuse rules, but also for many of the comments here – name calling – political ranting – disparaging of the military – attacking the Editor of this column – let’s stick to our strengths, and not go into the gutter

    This man apparently did something inexcusable, and it makes us all look bad – shame on him.

    • “This man apparently did something inexcusable, and it makes us all look bad”

      How’s that? Is every inexcusable act by any person a reflection on everyone else now?

    • I flew with another ranking officer at Plattsburgh AFB in the KC-135 who thought the rules didn’t apply to him. He had been one of my upgrade instructors and ended up destroying an aircraft and a crew in Texas because his unsanctioned demo didn’t work out. Unfortunately, there are always those who think they know better. I teach my students to recognize non-standard practices. Don Koorse, B-737 Check Airman, ret.

  13. $340,000,000 jet, flown by a drunken overachieving sex maniac, at 360 kts, 100 AGL, what could possibly go wrong!

    Our military is definitely out of control.

    In his only book Dwight Eisenhower, written insight of the Gettysburg address site, warned Us to watch out for our own Pentagon moving forward.

  14. The B-52 fatal crash at Minot in the mid-Nineties failed to become a teachable moment.

    • I wonder how many assigned crew members had refused to fly with this cowboy; if I rightly recall, the Minot B-52 (full bird) had trouble finding crew to go with him…

  15. I think this is what the Air Force song is all about. “We live in fame go down on flames” nothing can stop the 2 star Joker

  16. This really makes one wonder how the hell did this person become a two star general. Something is terribly wrong with this picture and needs to be investigated.

    • There is a saying that goes something like this: “No amount of success will compensate for failure in the home.” This G.O. is an example of that.

    • Are you talking about Admiral LeVine by chance? Yikes! The mentally ill allowed to lead. That says it all.

  17. It’s easy to pile on a wounded soldier. It’s as if he got 2 stars and never did anything right.
    It’s face value, integrity, and moreover it’s interpretation.
    Did he damage the “C” plane.
    The only victims here arise from the interpretation of his actions projected on other service members. It was the Judges choice to lower moral.
    The Judges could have easily found that this man has 2 stars and is distinguished.
    He is now going through therapy for instances that didn’t cause damage or harm, still the Air Force seeks 100%
    Moral whould have stayed high.
    Saving Grace
    What he did should not erase all the good he has done.
    Private David Leach
    P.S. Dear Russ Niles, I like the picture you posted of him, a pretty, proud smile to go with his colorful ribbons. Each one tells a story. There’s another story for you.
    “The story of Major General Phillip Stewarts’ Ribbons”.

    • You made no mention of the damage and shame he brought to his wife and children who supported him all those years. And if he loses his pension and benefits, do they too? Like I said, there is a saying: “No success compensates for failure in the home”.

  18. In my experience, a guy like this is very good at making higher ranks happy while leaving a trail of angry and demoralized troops in his wake along with whatever damage was done to cheat the stats and make him look good.
    I’ll bet there is a lot of deferred maintenance, misplaced funds, and undone tasks going back twenty plus years. The chances his actions didn’t kill anyone or waste millions in reality are quite slim.

    • There was a saying: “You can pull the wool over the eyes of your superiors, but not your subordinates”. If subordinates had a say on promotion boards, things might be different.

  19. This case is chump change compared to the homicidal maniacs in the Pentagon that were never held accountable for letting 13 US Marines to get blown up during Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, and then shooting a drone missile only to kill an innocent family of 10 (with small children) in misguided retaliation. None of our military’s brass were ever held accountable for these deaths. But here we are giving a DWI to imprudent USAF general.

  20. I understand he was a special general officer who had earned that unique MOS early in his career: One Delta One Oscar Tango (1D1OT).

  21. By the way, I was a pilot too. I became a pilot as a civilian between hitches on Active Duty. Interesting story. I got out of the Army and looked up an Army buddy I served with in Germany. We got hired to work in a Copper Mine in Miami, Arizona. Long story short, the way I became a pilot was, each day when I went to work, the Forman would hand me a shovel and say, “See that pile (pointing his finger), Pile It over there (pointing his finger)”. And that . . . is how I became a Pile it. 🙂

  22. There is a saying that goes something like this: “No amount of success will compensate for failure in the home.” This G.O. is an example of that.

  23. He won’t be unemployed long, He’s prime for hiring at JetBlue Airways as a E190 First Officer, then he can quickly work his way up the ranks of management stock and bonus pilfering.