By Kristina Wong - 04/10/15 10:00 AM EDT
An Air Force general has been removed from his position after warning airmen not to talk to members of Congress about the A-10 “Warthog” attack jet.
Air Force Maj. Gen. James Post III, a two-star vice commander at Air Combat Command, was under investigation by the Air Force’s inspector general for allegedly telling more than 300 airmen at a Nevada conference in January that they were not to talk to members of Congress about the Air Force's attempts to retire the attack jet.
In response to a question about the A-10, Post discussed “the importance of loyalty to senior leader decisions and used the word ‘treason’ in describing his thoughts on communication by Airmen counter to those decisions,” the investigation found.
His remarks had a “chilling effect on some of the attendees and caused them to feel constrained from communicating with members of Congress,” the command said.
The decision to remove Post from his job was made by the ACC Commander Gen. Hawk Carlisle after consulting with his staff judge advocate and receiving Post's response to the complaint.
“General Post understands the impact of his actions and has expressed his sincere regret to me, a regret he extends to all Airmen,” Carlisle said. He also issued a letter of reprimand to Post.
Post issued an apology over his comments, which he said were impromptu.
“The objective of my comment was simply meant to focus the attention of the audience on working within the command’s constraints. It was sincerely never my intention to discourage anyone’s access to their elected officials,” he said.
“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.”
While the Air Force has been trying to retire the A-10, the Cold-War era attack jet has a dedicated community of supporters, due to its role in supporting ground troops in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The jet is designed for close air support, and its proponents say it can fly low and slow over targets, providing more accurate fire than other aircraft.
The Air Force argues that retiring the jet would save the service $4 billion over five years, but their plan has met with fierce opposition from members of Congress who think the jet should remain in the military fleet.
Lawmakers have noted that there is strong support for the jet in the military ranks.
Sens. John McCainJohn McCainOvernight Defense: Congress overrides Obama 9/11 veto | Pentagon breathes easy after funding deal | More troops heading to Iraq McCain comments won't derail Bergdahl case Senators already eyeing changes to 9/11 bill after veto override MORE (R-Ariz.) and Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteAbortion rights group ads tie vulnerable GOP senators to Trump Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Vulnerable NH Republican ties reelection bid to Trump MORE (R-N.H.), staunch supporters of the A-10, had called for the investigation into Post’s remarks.
Ayotte welcomed the decision.
“I appreciate the thorough investigation that the Air Force Inspector General conducted into Major General Post’s comments," she said in a statement.
Ayotte had pressed Air Force leaders to investigate Post's remarks during a hearing earlier this year.
"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," she added.
- Updated at 12:44 p.m.