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Playing favorites costs wing commander his job

Jun. 6, 2010 - 10:25AM   |   Last Updated: Jun. 6, 2010 - 10:25AM  |  
Col. David "Iron" Orr
Col. David "Iron" Orr (AIR FORCE)
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A wing commander lost his job because he not only played favorites but hid unfavorable information from his bosses about a female lieutenant colonel, and recommended her for promotion, according to an Air Force investigation.

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A wing commander lost his job because he not only played favorites but hid unfavorable information from his bosses about a female lieutenant colonel, and recommended her for promotion, according to an Air Force investigation.

Col. David "Iron" Orr is still assigned to the 66th Air Base Wing, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., but is in the process of retiring.

When Orr got the boot in March, the Air Force said little other than Orr had shown favoritism toward a female officer and had lost the confidence of his boss, Lt. Gen. Ted Bowlds, commander of the Electronic Systems Center.

Air Force Times obtained a copy of Bowlds' "commander directed investigation" of Orr through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The investigation's appraisal of Orr is blunt.

"Col. Orr was both derelict in his duties and failed in his responsibilities to show himself a good example of virtue, honor, patriotism and subordination," the report said.

Through a Hanscom spokesman, Orr declined comment.

At the center of Orr's problems was his relationship with the lieutenant colonel, whose name and squadron are among the details blacked out in the copy of the investigation's findings released to Air Force Times.

Though the report concludes the relationship between Orr, who is married, and the unmarried lieutenant colonel was inappropriate, it did not indicate it was in any way romantic. Orr also fraternized with other airmen, according to the report.

On May 1, 2009, for example, Orr picked up the lieutenant colonel and three unidentified lower-ranking airmen from Hanscom's Minuteman Club and drove them home after they realized they had drank too much alcohol, the report said. The lieutenant colonel had requested the ride, sending Orr a text message on his Air Force-issued BlackBerry.

The lieutenant colonel's decision to contact Orr demonstrated he had failed to maintain the appropriate relationship between commander and subordinates, according to the investigation's findings.

"In normal circumstances," the report noted, "the last person [an airman] would call or text to arrange a ride home after becoming too drunk to drive would be their wing commander."

On May 13, 2009, Orr initiated an investigation of the lieutenant colonel after airmen complained that she was having unprofessional relationships with enlisted airmen.

Some of the 66th's senior officers and noncommissioned officers told investigators they doubted at the time that the investigation would lead to any actions because of Orr's relationship with the lieutenant colonel, the report said.

In early June 2009, with the investigation ongoing, Bowlds' staff asked Orr to provide promotion recommendation information on the lieutenant colonel. Orr did not mention the inquiry, rated her as "definitely promote" and ranked her as among his top officers.

Last July 14, Orr received the inquiry's findings, which confirmed the fraternization allegations. He responded by counseling the lieutenant colonel and chose not to inform Bowlds about the findings, the report said.

On July 16, Bowlds signed the lieutenant colonel's promotion recommendation form. She later received a "definitely promote" recommendation from Materiel Command's review board.

In October, another colonel told Bowlds about the lieutenant colonel's problems and the inquiry.

Bowlds' commander-directed investigation did not say if the discovery led to the lieutenant colonel's name being removed from Materiel Command's "definitely promote" list or if she was promoted.

On Jan. 29, Bowlds started an investigation of Orr. The investigation wrapped up March 19 and Bowlds fired Orr a week later.

After relieving Orr of command, Bowlds explained his decision to airmen in an e-mail.

"I took this action based on an assessment which concluded that Col. Orr had exhibited undue favoritism related to a subordinate officer, and as a result, failed to provide a complete and candid assessment to me, the center commander," Bowlds said in the e-mail. "In the Air Force, we hold our commanders to the highest of standards."

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