Philadelphia (Pa.) Inquirer (pg. A3) [Printer-friendly version] June 16, 1982 COMMANDER OF MISSILE SILO SENTENCED By Ashley Halsey 3D, Inquirer Staff Writer PLUMERVILLE, Ark. -- Patrick D. Hayes probably was not the only man in America who whiled away the hours by sipping a couple of beers on the job one Saturday afternoon last January. But Hayes was different from most in two important ways: He got drunk, and he was in command of an Air Force Titan 2 missile, which could send one of the largest nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal skyward on a moment's notice. In a military court hearing held on Monday at the Little Rock Air Force Base, the bespectacled Air Force major, his chest heavy with commendation ribbons earned during an 18-year military career that included a stint in Vietnam, pleaded guilty to being drunk on duty that day. Hayes, 41, was sentenced to serve six months at hard labor in the federal prison at Leavenworth, Kan., and to forfeit $1,500 of his $37,000 annual salary. The following account of his actions was presented at the hearing: Hayes drank two or three 16-ounce cans of beer before reporting to the missile site near Plumerville Jan. 23. He was carrying several more cans of beer when he arrived at the silo to take command of the four-member "alert duty" team. The team is trained to launch the 103-foot Titan 2 -- one of 53 such missiles that carry the largest warhead in the United States arsenal - within one minute of receiving an authenticated order. Hayes continued to drink after he arrived on duty -- several beer cans were collected as evidence from the crew quarters adjoining the silo - to the point where his drunkenness alarmed the airmen under his command. Two of them reported Hayes and he was relieved of duty. It takes all four members of the team, working in concert, to launch the missile. So the other crew members could have prevented a launch if one had been ordered without proper authorization. Hayes told Col. Kenneth D. Randall, chief judge of the Air Force Trial Judiciary Third Circuit, that he had been an alcoholic for about 20 years. "I cannot possibly express the regret I have and the shame for the embarrassment I've caused the Air Force and my family," said Hayes, who testified that drinking had contributed to his recent divorce. He said he had lost control of his drinking and described the January incident as the most traumatic experience of his life. Capt. Michael Stepp, an Air Force spokesman, said Hayes had given up drinking six days after the incident and had spent a month undergoing rehabilitation in Illinois. Since returning to Little Rock, although not to his former assignment, Hayes has participated in an Alcoholics Anonymous group, Stepp said. * Prior to this incident, his military record was outstanding and unblemished," Stepp said. Before his assignment to the 308th Strategic Missile Command in Little Rock three years ago, Hayes had served as an investigator for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations in Vietnam and Germany. The plea of guilty was entered under an agreement between prosecutor Capt. Charles H. Williams and defense attorney Lt. Col. John W. Mayer. The maximum sentence Hayes could have received included dismissal from the Air Force, forfeiture of all pay and imprisonment for four years and nine months. Mayer pleaded for a lenient sentence for Hayes, contending that other alcoholics in the military, which has been plagued by drug and alcohol abuse, would hesitate to seek treatment if the sentence were too severe. Hayes' term at Leavenworth could be reduced for good behavior, and he will retain his current rank. Seventeen of the 10-megaton Titan 2 missiles are deployed in the Arkansas silos of the 308th Strategic Missile Wing. (One megaton is the equivalent of 1 million tons of TNT; the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was equal to 20,000 tons of TNT.) An 18th missile was destroyed in an accidental explosion of leaking fuel in September 1980. An Air Force sergeant was killed, 21 other people injured and the missile's nuclear warhead damaged in the blast, although there apparently was no release of radiation. Titan 2 units based in Arizona and Kansas each deploy 18 of the two- stage intercontinental ballistic missiles, which weigh 165 tons at launch, travel more than 15,000 m.p.h. and have a range of more than 5,000 miles.