Lockheed’s U-2 “Dragon Lady” might soar more than 13 miles above the Earth, but for US Air Force Captain Joshua Bird, that just wasn’t high enough.
A notice shared on the popular US military gossip Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco on Wednesday said Bird had been convicted at a general court-martial in October of “using cocaine on multiple occasions, distributing dextroamphetamine sulfate (“go-gel”) prescribed to him during a deployment to others for recreational use, conduct unbecoming an officer and a civilian for the purchase of steroids, and obstructing justice for shaving his entire body to avoid a drug test.”
Bird’s punishment is three months’ confinement and dismissal from the Air Force, which is equivalent to a dishonorable discharge for officers, the notice says.
Task & Purpose noted that Bird likely shaved his body hair in an attempt to dodge a hair follicle drug test, but couldn’t confirm that the Air Force, or Bird’s home port at California's Beale Air Force Base, uses the detection method.
Dextroamphetamine sulfate is a common medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but Air Force pilots have long used the drug to keep their focus during exceedingly long hauls in their tiny aircraft. One paper published in the journal Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine described how B-2 stealth bomber pilots would selectively use the drug to combat fatigue on their globe-spanning missions, which could take between 17 and 36 hours per trip.
Pilots can be confined in the tiny U-2, a pseudo-glider in use since the mid-1950s that’s capable of soaring at altitudes of up to 70,000 feet, for up to 12 hours at a time. They must wear pressurized space suits and be constantly on-edge, as the flimsy U-2 is among the most difficult aircraft to fly. At times, the gap between its never-exceed speed and stall speed can be just 12 mph, and a stall can mean detection by enemy forces, as it did when US U-2 pilots were shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960 and over Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis.
However, personnel on the ground are no more immune to the allure of intoxication than fast-living pilots. US Air Force missile stations, where personnel must be constantly on guard to deploy the nation’s nuclear arsenal, have been taking to drug use to fill their off-hours, including LSD, cocaine and marijuana.