The commander of Fort Wayne’s Air National Guard base, cleared last month of anonymous allegations that he misappropriated public funds, has disclosed plans to retire.
Col. David Augustine, 50, said Sunday evening that “there is nothing tied to the two. All these allegations were unsubstantiated.”
Augustine said he will retire in coming months as the result of a medical condition that prevents him from piloting the A-10 combat jets flown by the 122nd Fighter Wing he has led since 2011.
He declined to identify the condition other than saying in a telephone interview, “It’s just those nice little high G forces that a guy puts on his body for a lot of years flying fighters.”
He said he and his family plan to remain in Fort Wayne and that he will stay at his post until a replacement is named.
“I’m very content,” he said. “I’ve had an amazing career.”
Augustine announced his retirement to airmen during weekend drills at the Ferguson Road base, where about 1,100 Guard members and soldiers are assigned. He said they supported his leadership style, “but they also know that everybody’s got a point in life, in their military career, when they have to transition on. So for Dave Augustine, it’s right about that 32-year point, just shy of that.”
Maj. Gen. Martin Umbarger, the state’s top military official, said July 16 at the base that medical reasons were keeping Augustine from flying and could cost him his job if not resolved in a year.
As Augustine said Sunday, “as a fighter wing commander, you have to be a fighter pilot.” He flew 24 combat sorties during the Iraq war.
Augustine said he had planned to retire around June 2015 before his flying status changed last month.
Umbarger released information on Augustine’s flying status when reviewing findings of a National Guard investigation that began May 27. Augustine had been accused in late April of misusing more than $233,000 in federal funds for holiday parties, speech classes and off-site seminars for airmen; a renovation design for his office; a neon sign for the base entrance; and travel expenses for an artist to do paintings of the base.
Umbarger said the expenses were $38,500 less than claimed and that all were common and acceptable at military bases.
Lt. Col. Cathy Van Bree, public affairs officer for the Indiana National Guard, said Sunday that Augustine informed senior Guard officials of his retirement plans over the weekend.
“The retirement has nothing to do with the investigation. It just has to do with his medical situation,” she said.
Umbarger said in a statement that Augustine “was the right officer, at the right place and the right time to lead the 122nd Fighter Wing through very challenging times.”
Umbarger noted that Augustine oversaw the base during combat missions and a conversion from F-16s to A-10s, then participated in negotiations “to ward off” attempts by the Pentagon to remove or replace the A-10s.
Umbarger also called Augustine pivotal in establishing Starbase Indiana, a science, technology, engineering and math lab for fifth-grade students that is housed at the 122nd Fighter Wing.
Augustine, a native of Columbus, Nebraska, enlisted in the Nebraska Air National Guard in 1982. He is a graduate of the Academy of Military Science and has more than 3,500 flying hours, according to his Air National Guard biography.
Before he was chosen commander of the 122nd Fighter Wing, Augustine was vice commander of the 127th Fighter Wing at the Selfridge Air Guard base in Michigan.