The two-star general who told officers they would be "committing treason" by advocating to Congress that the A-10 should be kept in service has been fired and reprimanded, Air Combat Command announced on Friday.
The military blog John Q Public first reported in January that Maj. Gen. James Post made the comments in January at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, prompting the Air Force Inspector General's Office to look into the matter.
The IG found that Post did use the word "treason" during his remarks to more than 300 airmen at the Jan. 10 Tactics Review Board, an Air Combat Command news release says.
"The IG report surmised that Post's 'choice of words had the effect of attempting to prevent some members from lawfully communicating with Congress,' which is a violation of the U.S. Code and DoD Directives, whether that was his intention or not," the news release says.
As a result, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, has removed Post as vice commander of Air Combat Command and issued Post a letter of reprimand, the news release says.
"Gen. Post understands the impact of his actions and has expressed his sincere regret to me, a regret he extends to all Airmen," Carlisle said in the news release.
The Air Force has not yet announced what Post's next assignment will be.
Post gave a statement in the news release expressing regret for the controversy surrounding his remarks.
"The objective of my comment was simply meant to focus the attention of the audience on working within the command's constraints," he said in the news release. "It was sincerely never my intention to discourage anyone's access to their elected officials. I now understand how my poor choice of words may have led a few attendees to draw this conclusion and I offer my humble apology for causing any undue strain on the command and its mission.
"I absolutely respect and understand the decision made by Gen. Carlisle and I hope my departure from ACC will enable the command to refocus on the mission as soon as possible. I have the utmost respect for the Combat Air Forces' Airmen who work every day to protect and defend the constitution and citizens of the United States."
Post's "treason" comment outraged some in Congress, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who called on Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James to investigate the matter.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who has been the foremost opponent to the Air Force's plans to retire the A-10. In January, Ayotte told Air Force Times she was "deeply disturbed" by what Post said.
"How could members of the armed forces exercising their lawful right to communicate with Congress be providing aid and comfort to our enemies?" Ayotte said in a statement at the time. "If the facts are on the Air Force's side regarding its efforts to prematurely divest the A-10, what does the Air Force fear?"
On Friday, Ayotte issued a statement saying she was glad that the IG had affirmed the right of service members to talk to Congress.
"I appreciate the thorough investigation that the Air Force Inspector General conducted into Maj. Gen, Post's comments," she said in Friday's statement. "I hope this unfortunate incident will eliminate any doubt regarding the legal right of a service member to lawfully communicate with Congress about the A-10 or any other issue of concern."