Former four-star Gen. William "Kip" Ward criticized the Pentagon Inspector General's report that forced him to retire last year under a cloud of controversy as a "gross misrepresentation," and said he was working on a book about his career.
"There are certainly many who know that what was portrayed wasn't the case. Once it hit the public [it was] spun in ways that were off-track with what the reality was," Ward told the Washington Examiner, in his first interview on the matter.
Ward was the first-ever combatant commander of U.S. Africa Command, a region to which President Obama will travel this week, but he was forced to resign with the reduced rank of lieutenant general after Pentagon investigators accused him of misusing military aircraft and financial improprieties - all of which Ward vehemently denies.
"I don't dwell on that," he said Wednesday. "My dignity and character and integrity remain intact, and all the people who know me know that to be the case."
Ward said he's working on a memoir about his "career as a solider, all of it," including his role in Hurricane Andrew relief operations, his time in Israel and his tour of Somalia.
A Pentagon IG report found in 2012 that Ward engaged in misconduct by using military aircraft and receiving reimbursement for expenses during travel that was not primarily official; permitting staff members to perform personal services for him and his wife; and accepting free meals and tickets to a Broadway show from a prohibited source, among other allegations.
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, unsatisfied with Ward's explanations, ordered him to repay $82,000.
Ward called the allegations a "gross misrepresentation of what went on," but declined to elaborate on what was misrepresented.
"All that we did was in accomplishing the work of the command of our nation, and we did it proudly," he said. "Those that worked closest to me knew that, and the support that I had then I still have now."
Ward gave the interview after appearing on a panel at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition's annual conference in Washington Wednesday. The retired general is on the coalition's National Security Advisory Council and serves as a senior advisor to SENTEL Corp., a defense contractor.
The general said Obama's trip to Africa "reinforces the relationship between the United States and the continent."
He spoke with pride of being the first U.S. military command on the continent, AFRICOM, from October 2007 to March 2011, which he helped create "from whole cloth." Now, he said, the command was "recognized as having an important role on the continent" despite being initially misunderstood.
Further, Ward praised the selection of former Sen. Russ Feingold to serve as a special envoy to the Great Lakes region of Africa, saying that it "sends a strong signal that says, 'This is important to America.'"
As for the allegations of misconduct that dogged his last days of military service, he says his "head is high. Nothing to be ashamed of. At all."