Strike One, You're Out!

Air Force cadets busted on drinking charges may lose their careers.

The disposition of Urton's case now rests with the academy's legal department, which will recommend to superintendent Lieutenant General John Rosa that Urton be retained at the academy on probation or that he be disenrolled. If Urton is discharged, he'll either have to serve two years' enlisted time or pay back the government for the cost of his education thus far, which amounts to approximately $100,000. (Bray and the other cadet who went to the party with Urton were disciplined for alcohol consumption but are not facing disenrollment.)

In a memo sent to the academy's legal department on December 9, Freimann argues that two mitigating circumstances should prevent Urton from being discharged. First, Urton never willfully provided alcohol to minors. "At most, he was negligent," the attorney says. And second, Urton was beaten by ten men. States Freimann: "I have serious concerns about the priorities demonstrated by our police if they, for all intents and purposes, ignore the fact that two cadets were badly beaten all in the name of curtailing underage drinking."

Michael Bray, cadet Bray's father, has another concern. He says that the party took place at the home of an academy sponsor. The Cadet Sponsor Program is designed to pair cadets with a host or sponsor family who will "provide positive adult role models and give them a place to relax away from the Cadet Wing," according to the academy. The sponsor parents weren't home at the time, Michael Bray says, and the young man who instigated the fight was a friend of the sponsor's son. The academy could not confirm where the party took place.

Pam Ancker, spokeswoman for the academy, says she cannot comment on specific cases. "Each case is looked at based on its own merits and the cadet's record," she explains. Before this incident, Urton was a good cadet with just over thirty demerits, for things Freimann describes as "small cadet infractions." (It's not uncommon for juniors to have as many as a hundred demerits.)

Until Urton's case is decided, cadets are left wondering how far the crackdown will go. "If you have a perfect cadet who is about to graduate," Freimann says, "is that worth giving him a general discharge and making him pay back $150,000?"

Urton, who's from Central Point, Oregon, has always wanted to serve his country. But now he might have to rethink those plans -- and all because of a case of beer. "I feel like my dreams have been taken away," he says.

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