WASHINGTON

Air Force fires 9 commanders over exam-cheating scandal

The Air Force took the extraordinary step Thursday of firing nine midlevel nuclear commanders and announcing it will discipline dozens of junior officers at a nuclear missile base, responding firmly to an exam-cheating scandal that spanned a far longer period than originally reported.

A 10th commander, the senior officer at the base, resigned and will retire from the Air Force.

Air Force officials called the discipline unprecedented in the history of America’s intercontinental ballistic missile force. The Associated Press last year revealed a series of security and other problems in the ICBM force, including a failed safety and security inspection at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., where the cheating occurred.

In an emotion-charged resignation letter titled “A Lesson to Remember,” Col. Robert Stanley, who commanded the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom, lamented that the reputation of the ICBM mission was now “tarnished because of the extraordinarily selfish actions of officers entrusted with the most powerful weapon system ever devised by man.”

Stanley, seen as a rising star in the Air Force, had been nominated for promotion to brigadier general just days before the cheating scandal came to light in January. Instead he is retiring, convinced, as he wrote in his farewell letter Thursday, that “we let the American people down on my watch.”

DARRINGTON, Wash.

Rescuers looking for bodies of 90 still missing in mudslide

Weary rescuers in hip waders pressed through rain and their own exhaustion Thursday, searching for more bodies and perhaps a miracle atop the pile of filth and debris that laid waste to a Washington town and killed at least 25 people.

The main goal now is to find more bodies and winnow the list of the 90 people who are still missing in the mudslide that buried the community of Oso on Saturday.

– From news service reports