Air Force General Resigns Over Extramarital Relationship
Lt. Gen. John Hesterman had commanded fliers under Central Command.
The assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force was forced to step down on Thursday after an inspector general’s report revealed an “unprofessional relationship” five years ago with a married female subordinate.
“The misconduct occurred about five years ago when Lt. Gen. Hesterman was a major general,” the service said in a statement. “Specifically, the investigation found that between March 2010 and May 2011, then-Maj. Gen. Hesterman had exchanged inappropriate emails with an Air Force female lieutenant colonel. These email exchanges were found to have constituted an unprofessional relationship. The investigation did not uncover any additional misconduct.”
Hesterman’s case has been referred for undetermined disciplinary action, and he received a letter of reprimand from the Air Force vice chief of staff. Officials are reviewing the case to determine whether he will retire at a lower grade, and thus receive a reduction in retirement pay.
The redacted report, triggered by an anonymous complaint, did not provide the name of the female officer, nor the status of any discipline affecting her. Hersterman also was married at the time of the “sexually suggestive” email exchanges. “The language is sexually suggestive in parts and indicates a relationship that has gone well beyond a professional, mentorship situation,” the report said.
In one email, Hesterman “intimated that he improperly influenced” the female officer’s boss to praise her work and expected “full credit” for doing so, the report said. The two parties denied having had sexual intercourse, but the female officer reported “inappropriate touching.” She later went through a divorce. She also told investigators that a person, whose name the IG redacted, had used her former email account to communicate with Hesterman.
Investigators did not substantiate all the tipster’s charges and relied on interpretation of the emails, including one in which the general wrote on his AOL account, “I miss you Gorgeous” and another in which he addressed her as “beautiful.”
“There is nothing special in the language used in the emails, although the "(smile)" in the second email and the comment about missing his picture up all over base accompanied by a ":) " emoticon in the third email do not indicate what might be considered a normal relationship between a wing commander and one of his [redacted],” the report said. “However, given the fact that other evidence indicates the Hestermans were mentors to the [redacted] , these comments may not be that unusual.”
Hesterman’s career most recently included a posting in Qatar commanding air strikes against ISIS. He has been serving as deputy chairman of the Air Force Council, and as the Air Force accreditation official for the international Corps of Air Attachés. Hesterman ran U.S. Air Forces Central Command in Southwest Asia and served in the 48th Fighter Wing in England, as well as flying in Desert Storm. He grew up in an Air Force family.