General Steve commands the UAE’s combat helicopters

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

Retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Toumajan is now United Arab Emirates Major General Stephen Toumajan — sort of:

A UAE government website proclaims that “His Excellency Major General Staff Pilot Stephen A. Toumajan” is “Commander” of the UAE’s Joint Aviation Command, which, according to experts on the UAE’s military, operates most of the nation’s combat helicopters. The website says he is responsible for training, combat readiness, and “execution of all aviation missions.”

“I’m the commanding general for the Joint Aviation Command in UAE,” he says in a video on a US Defense Department website. “The UAE is a very small country,” he continues. “We” — meaning the UAE — “don’t have the landmass that you” — the Americans — “have for these types of training events, so we certainly appreciate the hospitality that you’ve shown the United Arab Emirates and to my soldiers.”

His business cards also proclaim he is a UAE general. Reached by cell phone in Abu Dhabi, he answers in an authoritative voice: “General Steve.”


  1. James James says:

    Why “sort of”? This isn’t new — Sir John Glubb led the army of Transjordan.

  2. Isegoria says:

    The original article continues:

    Yet he also insists he is not actually in the UAE military. “I’m a major general for the United Arab Emirates,” he testified in a child custody hearing in Florida. “I hold the duty, rank, the responsibilities of a major general.” But in the very next breath, he stated, “I’m not currently in their armed forces.”

    In WhatsApp messages to BuzzFeed News, Toumajan, who retired from the US Army in 2007 after 20 years of service, said: “Stephen A. Toumajan has not sworn allegiance to the UAE nor is he in the UAE military.” He added, in a slightly ungrammatical message, “Stephen A. Toumajan is a civilian contractor whom has the trust and confidence of the Deputy Supreme Commander whom asked him to form the UAE Joint Aviation Command.” He said the forces fighting in Yemen are not under his command, and that his activities are authorized by the US government.

    The US Army says it is currently reviewing Toumajan’s situation. The State Department said the law bars it from discussing specific cases, though it says it has never authorized any contractor to provide “direct command functions” to a foreign army.

    “I was an officer in the US Army,” said Sean McFate, a fellow at the Atlantic Council who has written a book about private military contractors. “And the first thing you learn as a cadet is you are responsible for everything your unit does or fails to do, and that is the military ethos worldwide. If his unit ends up firing on innocents, from a military ethos standpoint, that blood is on him.”

    But in such a case, who would investigate or discipline him? Would it be military courts under the US Uniform Code of Military Justice, the UAE’s judicial system, or some other kind of court? “If an airstrike by the US goes bad, there is a clear set of procedures that comes next,” said Peter Singer, a strategist for New America, a nonprofit think tank. “It’s not always perfect but there are results, and in some cases there are court martials.” For Toumajan, he said, “What is the process here? For this individual?”

  3. Kirk says:

    Do a search on Frederick Townsend Ward, who led the Chinese dynastic forces during the Taiping Rebellion. Somewhat similar situation, and one that points to this being neither novel nor new…

  4. Isegoria says:

    Ward and the ever-victorious army have come up here before.

  5. Bob Sykes says:

    Well, a search of the internet shows that what Toumajan is doing is legal (as long as UAE doesn’t attack US), but it smells.

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