The former commander of the 57th Weapons Squadron at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey was fired two weeks after allegedly being caught asleep on his office couch, slurring his words, and with a Wawa fountain cup containing the remnants of an alcoholic beverage.
Lt. Col. Charles Polomsky was removed from command Feb. 13 by Col. Michael Drowley, commander of the United States Air Force Weapons School, “due to a loss of confidence in his abilities to carry out his duties,” according to a statement released that same day. The Air Force did not say anything else at the time explaining his removal.
But an incident report obtained by Air Force Times via the Freedom of Information Act described how Polomsky allegedly first denied, then later admitted, he had been drinking after being found by other members of the squadron sleeping, disoriented and slurring his speech.
Polomsky is now a tactician assigned to the 437th Operations Support Squadron at Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina. He has no command role, the 628th Air Base Wing there said. Polomsky declined to comment for this story.
In a sworn affidavit included in the report, the squadron’s operations officer testified that around 2 or 2:30 p.m. that afternoon, the squadron’s first sergeant told him that Polomsky seemed to be acting strangely.
“He [the first sergeant] said he thought [Polomsky] had been drinking, because he was slurring words he usually didn‘t slur,” the operations officer said in the affidavit.
All names are redacted in the report, but the operations officer referred to the 57 WPS/CC ― a military acronym that refers to the 57th Weapons Squadron commander.
The operations officer and the squadron’s director of staff, who also felt Polomsky had been acting strangely, went to Polomsky’s office and knocked three separate times without receiving a response. They opened the door and saw Polomsky asleep on the couch in his office. The director of staff told the operations officer to go back to his office, and later told the operations officer that it took Polomsky a few minutes “to find his bearings and start making any sense” after being woken up.
The director of staff also “noticed a plastic fountain drink cup with about two inches of dark liquid” ― about 1/8 full ― on Polomsky‘s desk, the operations officer said.
After the operations officer returned to Polomsky’s office, they started talking to him and asked if he was feeling OK. He said he felt fine, but the operations officer said he had “sleepy eyes and some noticeable speech difficulty,” according to the incident report.
Polomsky denied that he had been drinking and told them he had not had anything to drink since the evening of Jan. 27, which was a Friday. They asked him about the fountain drink cup ― which they smelled and concluded “it definitely contained alcohol” ― and he told them it was from the previous Friday, according to the report.
Another unidentified person said he saw Polomsky drink from the cup earlier that day and it was half-full at the time.
‘I drank out of a Wawa cup’
An official who conducted an eye test on Polomsky “immediately detected the odor of an alcoholic beverage ... along with blood shot watery eyes,” according to that person‘s statement. The official asked Polomsky if he had consumed any alcohol that day, and he said, “Yes, I drank out of a Wawa cup throughout the day while working in my office.”
He also said he had a bad back, but that he had not taken any medication that day that could have reacted with the alcohol.
When the eye test official asked Polomsky if drinking in the workplace was a common occurrence, he said it was, and that they had a squadron bar available to members after hours, on weekends, and after flight sorties, according to the incident report.
The official concluded that Polomsky had consumed alcohol during the course of his duty day after the eye test showed a lack of smooth pursuit in both eyes and a “distinct and sustained” movement in his right eye due to alcohol consumption. The official also said Polomsky swayed from side to side during the test.
Loss of confidence
During a breath test, Polomsky blew a 0.02 percent blood alcohol content, which is well below New Jersey’s legal limit of 0.08 percent, according to the report.
However, there were problems with the blood alcohol testing machine that delayed Polomsky’s test by several hours, according to the incident report.
The breath test operator was called in at about 6:40 p.m., according to the operator’s statement to investigators. But the machine displayed an error message indicating its solution needed to be changed, after which the machine needed to re-calibrate itself. The operator then realized that neither of the two mouthpieces brought to be used with the machine were sealed, which meant a bag of sealed mouthpieces had to be brought in. That bag arrived about 10:30 p.m., and the actual testing began about 11:50 p.m.
After the breath test was conducted, Polomsky was told he was suspected of consuming alcohol during duty hours. He was later investigated for allegedly violating Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, dereliction of duty; Article 112, drunk on duty; and Article 133, conduct unbecoming an officer.
Capt. Sara Greco, a spokeswoman for the 57th Wing, said in an email that Polomsky was disciplined due to the loss in confidence, which included “administrative actions” in addition to being removed from command.
Polomsky, an 11M mobility pilot, entered active duty in 1999, after graduating from the Air Force Academy.