COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
(Editor’s note: Courts-Martial are a matter of public record and can be found at afjag.af.mil/docket. From this article onward all court-martial stories will contain the name, rank, and squadron of the accused and the individuals involved if necessary.)
On Sept. 8, Senior Airman Matthew Rice pled guilty to several charges against him in a court-martial proceeding.
Rice was charged with failure to obey a lawful order and dereliction of duty in violation of Article 92, Uniform Code of Military Justice; as well as impersonating a NCO and an Officer in violation of Article 134, UCMJ.
While working as a recruiter in Louisville, Kentucky, in the 332nd Recruiting Squadron, Rice lied, on several occasions and over a period of several months, to a number of applicants attempting to join the U.S. Air Force.
He lied to one applicant who didn’t meet the Air Force weight requirements. Rice told the applicant he was ready to “ship out” for basic training and that he would be receiving a $10,000 bonus. Another applicant had been disqualified for service due to childhood Attention Deficit Disorder. After requesting the applicant provide the necessary medical documents to request a waiver, Rice also lied to this applicant by telling him that he was medically cleared, and that he had ship out dates, which were repeatedly delayed. Rice also told this applicant that he was entitled to a $10,000 signing bonus.
In fact, the medical clearance paperwork was never filed, and the airman was never cleared for active duty. Relying on Rice’s lies, the applicants quit their jobs and depleted their savings in preparation to start basic military training, but they were never able to ship out.
During the process of lying to these two applicants Rice began texting the individuals from his personal cell phone, pretending to be his flight chief, Tech. Sgt. Kori Stafford, in order to make the lies more believable. After several months of lying to the applicants, eventually Rice couldn’t keep the lies up and he told them the truth.
He stated he had deceived these individuals in order to avoid getting any complaints against him and getting into trouble. Rice had been previously punished under Article 15 for falsifying applicants’ enlistment documents and worried about getting any additional complaints.
As part of being punished under Article 15, Rice had been punished with forfeiture of pay. When Rice’s wife noticed missing funds from his pay, he lied and said that it was a mistake on the part of finance. Through e-mails, Rice posed as his commander, Lt. Col. Richard Mendez, and as a Staff Sgt. from finance, and tried to make it appear the missing payments would be corrected. Rice stated he did this to avoid stressing out his wife who was going through a difficult pregnancy at the time.
At the court-martial, Rice requested trial by judge alone and pled guilty. He was sentenced to a reduction in rank to the grade of E-1 and a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force. Rice then made a personal apology to all the applicants, Airmen, and families to whom he lied.
“We see in this case a classic example of an Airman who started down the path of misconduct, lying and falsifying documents, and then that misconduct grew and snowballed until it became a problem and a crime punishable under the UCMJ,” said Capt. Luke McPherson, 14th Flying Training Wing Deputy Staff Judge Advocate and the Government Trial Counsel in the case. “This is why living the Air Force Core Values on a daily basis is so important, so that we never start down that path of misconduct.”