JOINT BASE SAN ANOTNIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
With the sounds of freedom and flying training as the backdrop, Maj. Gen. Craig D. Wills took the reins of the 19th Air Force from Maj. Gen. Patrick Doherty during a change of command ceremony at Hangar 4 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph June 13.
With his family, friends and Airmen from across the Numbered Air Force in attendance, Wills received the guidon for the NAF that oversees flying training across Air Education and Training Command from Lt. Gen. Steve Kwast, commander of AETC, who officiated the ceremony.
“As you watch this flag being passed, you are watching a profound shift from one commander who has created out of the ashes of the past a great numbered air force command, handing it to a great leader with great moral character and courage,” Kwast said. “Wills has a history of being a great warrior. He is a dreamer, a visionary, a man who knows the priority of family first. You are going to see him take all of this great effort and take it to the next level (with your help).
“This change of command should remind us that it is not enough to be great warriors, to defend freedom in every corner of the globe – our true job as Americans, as citizens … is to raise the next generation to be stronger and better and wiser than we are to develop resilient, clever warriors so that we never have to fire a shot,” Kwast added.
After receiving a decoration that outlined the numerous advances in pilot production and innovation, as well as response to natural disasters, Doherty spoke to his command for the final time. He thanked his boss and the Airmen of 19th Air Force for the chance to lead.
“What an exciting opportunity this was … we’ve been very blessed,” Doherty said. “It’s been an honor to be on your wing.”
Doherty highlighted a culture of innovation initiatives going on across 19th Air Force.
“When you unleash learning into the individual … and not limit them … you breed a level of exceptionalism into the hearts and minds of our warriors. I am very excited about the successes you will give our Air Forces in the future. You continue to find new ways to bring lethality and readiness to our future.”
In addressing the men and women of 19th Air Force for the first time, Wills thanked all those in attendance, including his family, past commanders, mentors and role models he has looked up to throughout his career, before talking to the importance of airpower and Airmen.
“The true strength of our Air Force is our Airmen. Our greatest weapon our Airmen wield … is our culture of innovation,” Wills said. “What makes us Airmen is not the airplanes. What makes us Airmen is that once upon a time we saw a better way to end the suffering, to shorten the wars, a better way to protect our culture, to protect our country.”
Before closing, Wills talked to the strategic importance of the Numbered Air Force’s mission.
“Our country is being challenged by enemies who seek to threaten our prosperity and destroy our way of life,” Wills said. “To preserve our republic and protect our citizens, we need to get the future faster. The old ways of the past won’t work and the men and women of 19th Air Force know this. History will also show that 19th Air Force will be equal to the moment and superior to the task. America is counting on us, so let’s get to work.”
Prior to this assignment, Wills was the deputy chief of the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq. Wills commissioned through Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Arizona. He is a command pilot with more than 2,500 hours of flying time, primarily in the F-15C Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle.
Prior to Iraq, Wills was the director of strategy, plans and programs at Headquarters Pacific Air Forces. He previously commanded the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey; the 47th Operations Group at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas; and the 493rd Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom. He was also a fellow at Harvard University and served on the Seventh Air Force and U.S. Forces Korea Staffs.
Headquartered at JBSA-Randolph, 19th AF spans and includes 19 training locations, with 17 Total Force wings, including active duty, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units. The organization includes more than 32,000 personnel who operate more than 1,600 aircraft from 29 different aircraft models.
Members of 19th Air Force are responsible for the training and education of more than 32,000 U.S. and allied students annually in numerous specialties ranging from aircrew, remotely piloted aircraft crew, air battle manager, weapons director, and survival, escape, resistance and evasion.
Members at 19th AF are also responsible for U.S. Air Force Academy Airmanship programs and oversees 45 percent of the Air Force’s annual flying hour program.
Doherty has been the 19th Air Force commander since March 2017. He is headed to his next assignment as the director of plans, programs and requirements at Headquarters, Air Combat Command, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.