01:38 GMT22 February 2020
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    Air Force Lt. Col. Denis Paquette, who engaged in a relationship with a female security forces airman 20 years his junior while commanding an expeditionary base in Tunisia, will be dismissed from service.

    At a general court martial last week, Paquette pleaded guilty to fraternization, violating a lawful general order on one occasion by drinking more than two alcoholic drinks at a deployed location in less than 24 hours, and to impeding an investigation, Stars and Stripes reported.

    Additionally, the judge in the court martial found that Paquette was negligent in performing his assigned duties, but not guilty of more egregious charges such as dereliction and abusive sexual contact.

    According to witnesses' accounts, when Paquette performed duties as a commander of the 722nd Expeditionary Air Base Squadron at Sidi Ahmed Air Base in Tunisia last summer, he attached great importance to getting to know all of his airmen, but his relationship with the 18-year-old airman in the case in hand went too far.

    During its investigation, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) discovered the letters the two wrote to each other. Prosecutors accused the colonel of abusive sexual contact based on one of the letters, in which he mentioned moving his hand to the airman's leg to hold her inner thigh on a night when they had both been drinking. However, the airman told the judge during her testimony that she "didn't feel victimized."

    Paquette, a C-17 pilot and married father with more than 18 years in the Air Force, apologized to the judge, his family and his airmen for his wrong choices.

    "It would be wonderful if I could take a trip back in time and make different decisions, but I can't," he said in an unsworn statement.

    Paquette won't be eligible for retirement benefits, as his dismissal is the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge.    


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