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NEWS | Jan. 19, 2024

Nevada Army Aviator Moves to Finance, Logistics Management

By Master Sgt. Erick Studenicka, Nevada Army National Guard

CARSON CITY, Nev. – Lt. Col. Andrew Wagner’s career flight path is set to divert from rotary-wing aviation to financial and logistics management Jan. 19 when he succeeds Col. Mary Devine as the U.S. property and fiscal officer for Nevada. Wagner, 46, will become just the 10th USPFO officer for the Nevada Guard since the conclusion of World War II.

As USPFO, Wagner will oversee nearly $1 billion in federal assets in the possession of the Nevada Army and Air Guard. Wagner will also keep tabs on the roughly $200 million the Nevada Army and Air Guard receives annually in federal funds for payroll and operational expenses.

“It can be intimidating to think about the fiscal responsibility and accountability of the position,” said Wagner, who prepared for the role by serving as Devine’s deputy USPFO since his graduation from the Air Force War College last year. “I’m confident that, with the USPFO team, we will continue to advance service to the Nevada Guard while safeguarding federal property and funding, helping ensure both international and domestic mission success.”

Devine succeeded Col. Felix Castagnola in 2018 and she is set to become chief of staff to Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry, adjutant general. Wagner will also attain the rank of colonel in a few months.

“He’s going to be great,” Devine said of her understudy. “It will be a steep learning curve but he has the ethics and mindset to do well in the position. The USPFO officer’s job is like no other in the Department of Defense. There are only 54 positions in existence across the nation open to both Army and Air Guard officers.”

As USPFO, Wagner is on federal active duty and assigned to the National Guard Bureau. He will wear the NGB branch insignia and not the state shoulder patch. His bosses include Lt. Gen. Marc Sasseville, the vice chief of the National Guard Bureau; Gov. Joe Lombardo and Berry.

Early in his education and military career, Wagner was far more interested in armored vehicles and plant life than finance and logistics.

The summer before he graduated from Loveland High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, Wagner began his military career as a split-option Army private loading ammo in an armored cavalry unit. His father, retired Lt. Col. Steven Wagner, had encouraged him to enlist in the Army as early as possible. 

Andrew Wagner graduated from Loveland in 1996, wrapped up his cavalry training that summer, and then completed a bachelor’s degree in Botany from Miami (Ohio) University in 2000. He subsequently earned a master’s degree in Environmental Science from the University of Cincinnati in 2003.

While in college, Wagner’s military career was yet to take off in aviation. He was commissioned as an armor officer in 2001 and served as an Ohio Guard cavalry unit’s executive officer during its deployment to Kosovo in 2005.

In 2006, Wagner’s civilian job transferred him to Fernley, Nevada. He was set to transfer into a Nevada Army Guard public affairs officer slot but a chance encounter with retired state Army aviation officer Col. Robert Harrington altered the course of Wagner’s career.

“While I was waiting for a medical examination, Col. Harrington commented that the book I was reading — ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ — was his favorite,” Wagner said. “That started a conversation and soon he was encouraging me to apply to become an aviation pilot.”

A pilot’s seat at school opened soon thereafter and Wagner quickly found himself a UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter pilot for C Company, 1-168th Aviation. By 2008, Wagner was the executive officer for the unit during its deployment to Afghanistan. According to the Nevada Guard’s biennial report from 2009, C Company medically evacuated 1,027 people during the deployment. After that deployment with 1-168th, Wagner met his wife, Karen, and they soon welcomed their son, Jake, now 16, and Mia, now 10.

Four years later, Wagner returned to Afghanistan, this time as the commander of C Company, 1-168th Aviation. The deployment marked the fifth combat deployment since 9/11 for the heavily tasked unit. Once again, the unit flew hundreds of hours evacuating injured U.S. military, allies and civilians without a serious incident or casualty.

Since his return from his second deployment to Afghanistan, Wagner has worked primarily as the Army Aviation Support Facility commander in Reno. The facility oversees the daily operations and maintenance of the state’s six UH-60L Black Hawks and seven CH-47F Chinook helicopters. He also earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Nevada, Reno, in 2021 and a master’s degree in strategic studies while at the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama last year.

“Working as the AASF commander was actually a good stepping stone to becoming the USPFO officer — although on a much smaller scale, it involved lots of finance and accounting,” Wagner said. “My experience there gave me the institutional and professional foundation needed to grow and serve as USPFO.”

During his tour as USPFO, Wagner will remain on the ground and the Nevada Army Guard will lose one of its most experienced medical evacuation and firefighting pilots. Wagner said he would miss his time piloting specific missions but would look forward to serving thousands of Soldiers and Airmen each day by ensuring timely expenditures for payroll, training and essential equipment.

“All of my previous experiences and positions have combined to help me prepare for my new position, which will allow me to better serve the entire Nevada National Guard,” Wagner said.



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