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Inquiry absolves Air Guard chief

Cleared of misconduct, he could still lose command

Augustine
Umbarger

The state’s top military officer kept repeating himself Wednesday.

“Use of these types of funds is legal, appropriate and authorized,” Maj. Gen. Martin Umbarger said over and over at a news conference at Fort Wayne’s Air National Guard base.

Eleven times the state’s adjutant general read an allegation of misconduct leveled by an anonymous source against Col. David Augustine, commander of the 122nd Fighter Wing.

Every time, Umbarger read the findings of an internal investigation of Augustine and said of each complaint, “Not substantiated.”

The National Guard investigation that began May 27 found that Augustine had not, as alleged, misappropriated more than $233,000 in public funds nor violated laws or military regulations.

But Augustine could lose his command nonetheless. Umbarger announced that Augustine has medical reasons that prevent him from flying and might disqualify him as commander of the 122nd Fighter Wing, home to a squadron of A-10 combat jets.

Umbarger declined to identify Augustine’s medical condition, the basis of one of the misconduct claims against the colonel. Umbarger said Augustine’s flying status had been “duties not to include flying” since Augustine reported the condition a year ago.

Umbarger said that as of midnight Wednesday, Augustine’s status would change from temporarily disqualified from flying to medically but not permanently disqualified. If Augustine is found to be permanently medically disqualified from flying, he would lose his command, Umbarger said.

“I feel very secure in him leading this organization, but he can’t fly. … His medical process is moving on and with the outcome of that we will make some choices at that time for he and his family and the leadership at this wing,” Umbarger said.

Augustine, a combat pilot in the Iraq war, has been commander of the Ferguson Road air base since 2011. He did not take questions or speak at Wednesday’s news conference, which was attended by members of the 122nd Fighter Wing, state Guard leaders and local, state and federal government officials.

The investigation findings did not dispute the items on which Augustine was accused of misspending money: holiday parties and off-site seminars and speech classes for Guard members; a renovation design for his office; a neon sign for the base entrance; using A-10 aircraft for official business and training; and travel expenses for an English artist to do paintings of the base, with Augustine selling reprints and putting the money in a “commander’s fund.”

But the investigating officer and Umbarger portrayed such expenditures as common and acceptable practices at military bases.

The single largest outlay alleged as improper was $100,000 for speech classes for airmen. Umbarger said the expense was $85,000 to train 85 airmen and that the provider, Dale Carnegie Co., is a recognized federal contractor.

In all, the expenses in question were about $38,500 less than claimed by the unknown accuser on April 28 and first reported by WANE-TV a month later.

Umbarger said the investigation was conducted by Brig. Gen. Glen Moore, an Army National Guard officer who is a detective with the Oklahoma City Police Department and is known by neither Umbarger nor Augustine. Umbarger said Moore briefed him June 10 and that Umbarger and National Guard senior attorneys completed their review of the investigator’s findings last week.

Umbarger then reported them to his boss, Gov. Mike Pence.

A visibly and admittedly emotional Umbarger called Augustine to his side during the news conference and read through a long list of the commander’s accomplishments at the Fort Wayne base.

“He is a combat-proven and richly talented leader, and I am proud to have him as our commander of the 122nd Fighter Wing,” Umbarger said.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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