This story was updated Oct. 12 at 11:08 a.m. to clarify the nature of the sexual assault allegation.
The Air Force announced Wednesday it has formally charged Maj. Gen. Phillip Stewart, the service’s former pilot training boss, with sexual assault, dereliction of duty and multiple other crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
In all, the two-star general faces two counts of sexual assault under Article 120 of military law; two counts of dereliction of duty under Article 92; one count of conduct unbecoming of an officer under Article 133; and one count of extramarital sexual conduct under Article 134, according to a partially redacted charge sheet obtained by Air Force Times. Air University boss Lt. Gen. Andrea Tullos filed the charges Sept. 21.
Stewart allegedly penetrated a woman’s vulva with his mouth and penis without her consent on multiple occasions while visiting Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, in mid-April, according to the charge sheet.
During the same trip, Stewart allegedly violated Air Force rules by piloting an unnamed aircraft less than 12 hours after consuming alcohol. Altus is a training hub for pilots, refueling boom operators, maintainers and other aircrew across the mobility enterprise.
Stewart is also accused of inviting someone to spend the night alone with him in his private hotel room while on official travel to Colorado in March, having sex with someone other than his spouse in Oklahoma in April and pursuing an unprofessional relationship from March 6-May 9, according to the charge sheet.
The Air Force will consider whether there is enough evidence to begin a court-martial at a preliminary Article 32 hearing — the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding — on Oct. 24 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.
If the case heads to trial, Stewart faces a minimum sentence of dismissal or dishonorable discharge, or up to 66 years in confinement and forfeiture of pay. He is presumed innocent until found guilty.
Air Education and Training Command boss Lt. Gen. Brian Robinson fired Stewart from his post as 19th Air Force commander in May due to a “loss of confidence in his ability to lead” after less than a year in the role. Stewart oversaw 32,000 personnel and 1,530 aircraft while managing the service’s pilot training enterprise from JBSA-Randolph.
He was reassigned to a staff position at Air Education and Training Command headquarters in San Antonio, Air Force spokesperson Capt. Scarlett Trujillo told Air Force Times in an email.
The former commander has amassed more than 2,600 flying hours in several fighter, special operations, intelligence and trainer aircraft and flown more than 168 combat missions since commissioning as an F-15C pilot in 1992, according to his official biography. He has received a Bronze Star Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Defense Superior Service Medal.
Before taking over at 19th Air Force in August 2022, Stewart headed NATO’s effort to train the Afghan air force and served as the Air Force’s top air adviser in Afghanistan. He held multiple policy and staff jobs on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff and with military commands in Europe, and led the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, California.
General officers rarely face prosecution through the military legal system. Wednesday’s announcement marks the second time an Air Force general officer has been charged with a sexual crime. The first, Maj. Gen. Bill Cooley, the former commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, retired as a colonel in June after being convicted of abusive sexual conduct for forcibly kissing his brother’s wife. He has lodged a complaint with the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals.
In 1992, Maj. Gen. Donald Kaufman was arraigned as part of a court-martial, but his case was dismissed and never went to a jury, Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek previously told Air Force Times. Kaufman, who faced allegations of taking enemy AK-47 assault rifles as trophies from the Gulf War, was demoted to the rank of colonel and retired.
Jaime Moore-Carrillo is an editorial fellow for Military Times and Defense News. A Boston native, Jaime graduated with degrees in international affairs, history, and Arabic from Georgetown University, where he served as a senior editor for the school's student-run paper, The Hoya.
Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.