NORFOLK, Va. - The former leader of the Virginia National Guard and his assistant misused government aircraft, according to a Pentagon investigation.
The Virginian-Pilot reports ( http://bit.ly/Lgi3r4) that the investigation shows the pair flew on Black Hawk helicopters at a cost of $5,000 per hour when they could have driven to several events in Virginia instead.
The findings of the Defense Department's inspector general were released to the newspaper this month two years after it filed an open-records request.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Newman Jr. served as adjutant general from 2006 to 2010 and Army Brig. Gen. Stephen Huxtable was assistant adjutant general from 2009 to 2010. Huxtable declined to comment to the newspaper. Newman told the newspaper in an emailed statement that he followed procedures set by his predecessor.
Both have retired from the military, although Huxtable still works for the state as director of personnel and administration for the Department of Military Affairs. Newman is a homeland security consultant.
The investigation was launched in response to an anonymous complaint and was concluded in a report dated May 24, 2011.
The report says over a 13-month period examined by investigators, Newman traveled by helicopter 27 times. Six of those flights were found to be improper. Some covered distances as short as 60 miles. On five of those trips, investigators said Newman brought along his wife Becky without proper approval. Defense Department regulations prohibit guardsmen's family members from traveling on government aircraft without approval from the governor or lieutenant governor.
Newman told the newspaper that when his wife accompanied him, it was "in her very active role of supporting our Virginia Guard families."
Most of the trips were ceremonial. Newman and his wife flew to Fort Pickett for a change of command and a dedication of new howitzers, to Lexington for the dedication of a new building at Virginia Military Institute, to Winchester to visit a new armory, and to Bedford for an infantry deployment. Investigators said that of 16 helicopter trips for Huxtable, only one _ a trip to Roanoke for an event honoring soldiers and veterans _ was improper because he had no pressing reason to fly rather than drive.
Cotton Puryear, a spokesman for the Virginia Guard, said that when Army Maj. Gen. Daniel Long Jr. became adjutant general in 2010, he instituted a process requiring officers to review their travel and other activities with the state inspector general to ensure regulations are being followed.
Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com
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