‘Unhealthy command climate’: Malmstrom security forces leader relieved of command

Lt. Col. Raymond Fortner, right, accepts command of the 741st Missile Security Forces Squadron from Col. Robert Frederiksen, 341st Security Forces Group commander July 12, 2017 at Malmstrom Air Force Base. (John Turner/U.S. Air Force)

(The Electric) Lt. Col. Raymond Fortner, commander of the 741st Missile Security Forces Squadron at Malmstrom Air Force Base, has been relieved of command.

Col. Aaron Guill, 341st Security Forces Squadron commander, relieved Fortner of his position on Nov. 13 due to “a loss of trust and confidence after a series of events demonstrated that Fortner established and maintained an unhealthy command climate,” according to a Malmstrom statement.

Fortner assumed command of the unit in July 2017.

Based on complaints to the 341st Missile Wing Inspector General and a preliminary inquiry, a commander-directed investigation was initiated and concluded that several of the complaints were substantiated by the evidence, according to the Malmstrom statement.

Malmstrom officials told The Electric that the IG’s office received complaints in August that were referred to the security forces group commander who conducted a preliminary inquiry.

The results of that inquiry prompted a formal investigation, which was initiated by the security forces commander on Sept. 21, 2018.

Malmstrom officials told The Electric that the investigation included interviews of more than 30 individuals inside and outside the squadron.

The investigation was completed on Nov. 8, 2018 and the legal review was completed on Nov. 11, 2018. After notification of senior leaders, the decision was made to remove Fortner from command on Nov. 13, Malmstrom officials said.

The nature of the complaints and details of the investigation are not available, but in a response to The Electric, base officials said Fortner was relieved because of “the loss of confidence in his ability uphold Air Force core values as a senior leader. He established and maintained an unhealthy command climate which failed to maintain the trust and confidence of his leaders and subordinates in his ability to accomplish the mission while treating people with dignity and respect.”

In the response to The Electric, base officials added, “The Air Force takes allegations of misconduct by any airman seriously, investigates the allegations fully, and takes appropriate action when warranted. Commanders are subject to removal from their positions if superior commanders, at any level, have lost confidence in their ability to lead effectively. Commanders have the obligation to identify potential issues, take all necessary steps to protect Airmen and prevent impropriety or misconduct.”

Fortner will be assigned to another position at Malmstrom until he is due to rotate to another duty location, according to base officials.

Maj. Cody Elliott is the unit’s interim commander.

The squadron was due for a change command in the summer of 2019, but base officials are working to coordinate an earlier date.

Fortner was responsible for training, organizing and equipping more than 250 security forces personnel assigned to the 741st MSFS.

The 741st includes the tactical response force airmen who patrol and respond to the missile field with the 40th Helicopter Squadron, as well as the convoy security forces.

In recent years, several other Malmstrom commanders have been relieved of their positions.

In 2013, the commander of the security forces group, Col. David Lynch, was relieved of command for a loss of confidence.

In 2014, Col. Rob Stanley, 341st commander, resigned and nine other commanders were removed from their positions after a cheating investigation at the wing, including the 341st Operations Group commander and deputy commander, all three missile squadron commanders and the commander of the operations support group.