Toxic Boss: Major General Leonard Patrick

The chain of command “cannot work without loyalty to every level. Loyalty up and down the chain makes a system efficient and effective.” Thus reads AFI 1-1, Air Force Standards. But what happens when the links in this chain look out only for themselves, or cover up misconduct among lower echelons?

That’s what seems to have happened in Air Education and Training Command during the long tenure of Major General Leonard Patrick. Beginning in 2008, when he assumed command of the 37th Training Wing at Lackland AFB, Patrick has presided over one controversy after another, including the notorious Lackland sex scandal. Yet he not only escaped personal responsibility for his role in these fiascos, he also failed to hold any of his subordinate commanders – particularly Colonels Mark Camerer and Debbie Liddick – accountable for their egregious abuses of authority. Together, they decimated the Military Training Instructor corps, sent dozens of airmen to prison on trumped-up charges, and refused to entertain the legitimate complaints about the toxic leadership environment he and his lackeys cultivated.

Take, for example, the curious case of Lt. Col. Craig Perry. After Col. Liddick removed him from command in late 2013, this officer filed a complaint with the AETC Inspector General regarding the 737th Training Group commander’s shenanigans. Rather than properly investigate these allegations, Maj. Gen. Patrick appointed a staff attorney to conduct an “informal inquiry” into the matter, which the 2 AF commander signed off on two years ago today.

Not surprisingly, this inquiry was a total sham. Maj. Gen. Patrick substantiated only a single allegation: that Col. Liddick starched her Airman Battle Uniform and encouraged others to do so, in violation of policy. He ignored overwhelming evidence that Col. Liddick failed to investigate a sexual harassment complaint against one of her favored subordinates, or that she illegally coerced a gift from Lt. Col. Perry.

Maj. Gen. Patrick’s deception began to unravel once Mrs. Perry sued her husband’s commander for the return of her ill-gotten property. The Air Force later informed members of Congress that the 2 AF commander directed a “thorough” investigation, which found Col. Liddick had, in fact, illegally solicited and accepted a gift. They also revealed Col. Camerer counseled his wayward subordinate about this matter just days before she retired. Yet they refuse to release Maj. Gen. Patrick’s report of investigation under the Freedom of Information Act, implausibly claiming it is exempt as attorney work product.

Loyalty up and down the chain of command is essential to the proper functioning of the Air Force system. That system breaks down when certain key links in the chain lack integrity, and no one higher up in the organization has the courage to call them on it.

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