For the generals stationed at MacDill air force base, the day job could not be more challenging. From this US military complex on Florida's Gulf coast, these men have run the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and masterminded counter-terrorism operations around the globe, including the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
But what shocked America last week was the discovery that MacDill is also at the hub of a social whirl that has not only ended the career of the country's top spy, but also fuelled concerns about the behaviour and judgment of the nation's military commanders. The US defence secretary has now announced a review of misconduct by high-ranking military personnel.
MacDill is quite unlike your average military base. Here, senior officers live in large waterfront homes with sweeping views of Tampa Bay, set back from palm tree-lined avenues. For respite from the rigours of command, there is a beach, an on-site diving school, jet-ski rentals and a golf course - all the trappings of a tropical resort, indeed.
It is off the base, however, amid the plantation-style mansions of Tampa's wealthiest enclave, that high-ranking officers are courted as celebrities. Members of the armed forces are venerated across America, but here, the top brass are not so much placed on pedestals as feted on thrones.
The saga that has brought down David Petraeus, one of the most senior US generals and, until his resignation earlier this month, director of the CIA, resembles a cross between the plotlines for Homeland and Desperate Housewives.
At the centre is Jill Kelley, a local socialite, albeit one on the brink of bankruptcy, who has an equally glamorous twin sister, Natalie. Her Tampa social circle includes not only Gen Petraeus and his wife, but Gen John Allen, Petraeus's successor in Afghanistan, and Frederick Humphries - aka "Agent Shirtless" (thanks to a jokey topless picture he sent to Kelley) - the FBI operative who initiated the investigation that brought down Petraeus.
Kelley had alerted Humphries to a string of anonymous, and reportedly threatening, emails, warning her to stay away from Petraeus. Humphries duly set in motion an FBI cyber-stalking investigation.
It then emerged that the emails came from Paula Broadwell, Petraeus's biographer, 20 years his junior, with whom he had been having an affair. This revelation led to Petraeus's resignation as CIA chief, while Broadwell faces an ethical review of her doctoral dissertation at King's College, London, on Petraeus - for sleeping with the subject of her research.
But this stranger-than-fiction tale doesn't end there. Kelley in turn exchanged emails - described as "simply flirtatious" by some who have seen them, and tantamount to "phone sex" by others - with Gen Allen. His nomination as Nato supreme commander was put on hold last week pending a Pentagon investigation.
Along with her husband Scott, a cancer surgeon, Kelley threw caviar-and-cigar parties for high-ranking officers from MacDill. Her sister, Natalie Khawam, who moved in with her after a messy divorce, was a fixture at these soirees, the two regularly posing for photographs in body-hugging designer outfits. Generals Petraeus and Allen were often among the guests assiduously courted by Kelley, the daughter of Lebanese Christian immigrants who seemed to many the epitome of the American dream.
Yet in a new twist to an already tangled story, a New York businessman has told The Sunday Telegraph that Kelley tried to parlay her military connections into a "ludicrous" $80 million fee to broker an energy deal.
She certainly needed the money. The Kelleys, it emerged last week, are deep in debt and have faced foreclosure proceedings on the home they bought in 2004 for $1.5 million. Khawam, a lawyer, has her own financial woes, declaring bankruptcy earlier this year with debts of $3.6 million.
The sisters were also regulars at diplomatic events in Washington, thanks to contacts they cultivated with envoys from Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Indeed, they attended the farewell celebration for Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the previous British ambassador to the US, although the embassy declined to say who had invited them. And in the last two months, they twice sat down to "courtesy meals" in the White House, as guests of an unnamed presidential lawyer. The Kelleys and Khawam then took a tour of the White House, on November 4, just five days before the scandal erupted.
Kelley's Middle Eastern heritage and contacts have prompted internet speculation that she could be a "Lebanese Mata Hari", though there is no suggestion of any romantic liaisons or espionage on her part.
But she did love to acquire honorary diplomatic titles. At MacDill, she served as a civilian liaison officer, helping to improve ties between the military and local community.
After passing a background security check, the role earned her a coveted pass, allowing her on to the base without an escort. But she evidently aspired to a more elevated status and started to refer to herself as a social "ambassador" for MacDill.
Quite how a name-dropping social climber was allowed through the normal vetting process has mystified one of Petraeus's predecessors at MacDill.
"To me, it's just so bizarre," General Anthony Zinni mused to the Tampa Bay Times yesterday (Saturday). He said that every social invitation and meeting with a civilian was checked not just for security implications, but how it would reflect on the military.
Nevertheless, impressed by her connections, earlier this year South Korean officials made her an honorary consul to "develop Korea-US relations", an appointment that she boasted was arranged by Petraeus. Indeed, in her driveway last week were two 500-series Mercedes bearing customised number plates with the words "honorary consul".
And in that guise, she was introduced at the Republican convention in Tampa in August to Adam Victor, president of TransGas Development, an energy company looking at projects in South Korea.
"She made it clear to me that she was a very good friend of General Petraeus and that he had arranged for her to be made the honorary consul," he told The Sunday Telegraph. "She came across very impressively and said that she could help with access to highest levels of government in Korea."
But at a later meeting, Kelley proposed that her cut of the project should be two per cent of the costs of the proposed project - a fee of $80 million. It was a sum so outlandish that Victor did not even make a counter bid.
"That number immediately told me that she was an amateur who was in way over her head. It was evident I had wasted my time and money.
"I feel that General Petraeus had a significant lapse in judgment if he had anything to do with her getting that title."
Victor is not alone in his poor impression. Mark Rosenthal, a fellow MacDill civilian liaison, first met the sisters at a dinner party at the house of Petraeus. He told the Tampa Bay Times that the two hogged the conversation with non-stop chatter about shopping and travel. "To me, it was out of line," he said. He added that he met Kelley at numerous subsequent events where she flirted, hugged and kissed top officers, and was invariably "loud, ostentatious and revealing".
But the Petraeuses struck up a friendship with the sisters none the less. During the general's deployments in Afghanistan, the women even took his wife, Holly, shopping.
"There are officers from more than 50 countries, including Britain, stationed there and it's a sociable place, and a posting there is coveted and fun," a former officer from MacDill told The Sunday Telegraph. "Don't get me wrong, these guys are doing a deadly serious job, running the war in Afghanistan, but in their spare time, this is Florida not Kansas, and that has some benefits. And there are people like Jill Kelley who are very keen to host events."
The Kelleys have also regularly visited the Petraeuses since he retired from the army to take up his position at the CIA, spending last Christmas with the couple.
Meanwhile, both General Petraeus and General Allen wrote letters of support for Khawam concerning a custody battle over her young son, following a short-lived marriage.
That the two officers wrote such fulsome testimonies to her integrity and parenting skills has raised eyebrows, especially since a judge had earlier delivered a scathing ruling against Khawam.
She "lacks any appreciation or respect for the importance of honesty and integrity in her interactions with her family, employers and others with whom she comes in contact," the judge ruled.
General Allen was by then in Kabul after succeeding General Petraeus. And it was in Afghanistan that he received emails in May warning him to be careful of his relationship with Kelley from an online account called "KelleyPatrol".
He forwarded the messages to Kelley, who was receiving similarly harassing emails warning her to keep away from Petraeus.
The subsequent FBI investigation established that the emails were being sent by Broadwell, and later that she was having an affair with Petraeus. And there it might have ended, as no evidence was found of a crime or a security breach.
But Humphries suspected that the FBI was suppressing the investigation for political reasons. He raised his concerns with a prominent Republican in Washington, who in turn contacted the bureau's director, Robert Muller. That gave fresh momentum to the inquiries, which ultimately ended with Petraeus handing in his resignation.
The affair has not just cast a moral stain on General Petraeus. It has also raised questions about national security, although both he and Broadwell denied that he was the source of confidential material on her computer.
Their use of a shared Google email account to leave messages for each other in the draft folder - a tactic deployed by terrorists to avoid incriminating email trails - has also prompted concerns about whether the cyber security of the head of the nation's leading spy agency could have been compromised.
The Pentagon is meanwhile continuing its separate investigation into the emails between Gen Allen, who is also married, and Kelley. Although senior officers close to the general insist that there was nothing inappropriate in his messages, the behaviour and mores of senior officers are under intense scrutiny after a series of embarrassing sexual and financial scandals.
Leon Panetta, the defence secretary, on Thursday announced a broad review of misconduct as the number of substantiated allegations of wrongdoing increased significantly.
Gen William Ward, former head of the US Africa Command, was demoted last week after accusations of lavish spending on personal travel for himself and his wife. And Brig Gen Jeffrey Sinclair was stripped of his position, and is facing the military equivalent of a grand jury to decide whether he should face charges over relationships with five women.
The phenomenon of what some are calling "generals gone wild" is a shock to the system in a country where the cult of uniform permeates public life. But it is also highlighting the strains placed on army families by lengthy deployments and separations after more than a decade of war. Some have noted the sad irony that Petraeus, the betrayed wife, works as a financial adviser and advocate for families of military personnel serving overseas.
Meanwhile, Paula Broadwell spent much of the week holed up at her brother's Washington home. The whereabouts of her husband, with whom she lives in North Carolina with their two young sons, was not known.
On November 9, the day the story broke, the couple were staying at a bed-and-breakfast in rural Virginia to celebrate her 40th birthday. Broadwell had booked a room with a four-poster bed and ordered champagne and a bouquet of roses and lilies for their arrival - unsurprisingly, their romantic get-away ended early.
Broadwell, who has had her security clearance removed and is under investigation over the confidential material found on her computer, has made no public comment. But before his daughter's lawyers instructed him not to speak to the media, her father, Paul Krantz, cryptically told a journalist: "This is about something else entirely, and the truth will come out… There's a lot more here than meets the eye."
Former aides to General Petraeus, a man once talked about as a future President, said that he broke off the affair about four months ago, but that he had remained in contact with Broadwell to help with her dissertation on his military leadership.
It emerged this weekend that, as with Kelley, Broadwell's links to Petraeus had opened doors to the White House. She visited twice, for meetings with aides in 2009 and 2011, to discuss Afghanistan-Pakistan policy as part of her research.
Meanwhile, Kelley was seeking the help of Tampa's mayor, Bob Buckhorn, to deal with the media circus camped outside her house.
In what must be a novel experience for the pushy socialite, he did not respond.