JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
Maj. Gen. Michael A. Keltz formally becomes the 19th Air Force commander in a ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, today.
Keltz' assumption of command of the 19th Air Force, authorized Oct. 1, 2014, marks another milestone for Air Education and Training Command and its flying education and training program for the Air Force, other services, and the nation's allies.
In 2011, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley directed a cost-cutting reorganization of the Air Force and deactivated 19th AF and other numbered Air Forces by merging air operation centers.
Nineteenth Air Force's mission is to execute operational-level command and control of all formal aircrew flying training missions within AETC and provides world-class Airmen to the Combat Air Forces and Mobility Air Forces. The 19th AF provides operational control and administrative authority to support the training of world-class aircrews, air battle managers, weapons directors, Air Force Academy Airmanship programs, and survival, escape, resistance, and evasion, to sustain the combat capability of the United States Air Force.
Keltz said a major difference between this 19th AF and its predecessor is the addition of a permanent Reserve technician, Brig. Gen. Stephen "Fritz" Linsenmeyer, as the vice commander. Nineteenth Air Force will benefit from the leadership and capabilities of Linsenmeyer, who exemplifies the founding principles of the Air Force's Total Force concept.
In addition to a one-star vice commander, 19th AF will also have a command chief with an "outstanding track record" as former wing command chief at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, said Keltz.
"Chief Master Sgt. Robert Boyer is a tremendous guy," said Keltz. "He is a great mentor and has tremendous experience. As a dedicated chief for 19th AF, he can now help Chief Tapia [Chief Master Sgt. Gerardo Tapia, AETC command chief] provide the Air Force with the best-educated and best-trained Airmen in the world."
While 19th AF utilizes experienced leadership to mentor junior leaders, it also implements emerging equipment and methodologies to instruct the next generation of trainees.
On leveraging new technology, the general said there are a number of advances to include electronic flight bags, tablets and digital media to enhance flying training, but the real advance involves high-fidelity simulator training.
"The quality of students is superior because of the high-fidelity simulators," Keltz said. "This allows the trainer to teach the tasks repetitively which are validated in the air. It's the ground-based training system that will make or break the next generation of pilots."
Another point the general makes about flying training technology is advancement on the future T-X, which he said will take the Air Force's flying training program even further.
"The T-38 is 1950's technology. It teaches pilots how to land century-series aircraft," said Keltz. "None of our tactical aircraft, such as the F-16, F-15 or the F-22, fly or land like that. The T-X training system will serve as the bridge from the T-6 Texan and produce pilots ready for fifth-generation fighters."
In addition, Keltz said the T-X trainer meets the full category range of flying training simulators, including simulation training for the F-35 Lightning II.
According to Keltz, approximately 50 to 75 women annually go through the recruiting sources at the Air Force Academy or Officer Training School but are denied the opportunity to fly because they are too short to operate the T-38.
"In the last 20 years, statistically speaking, that's 1,000 women who were exceptional leaders who could have made a significant impact," said Keltz. "We have zeroed-in on this issue, and are making strides in diversity in the Air Force.
"The new trainers will help prevent the elimination of almost 30 percent of female students," Keltz said. "Due to anthropometrics of not being able to meet rotor rudder pedals, the T-38 is just not suitable for all female student pilots."
Another advantage of the 19th AF is the Uniform Code of Military Justice authority that comes with "G" Series orders. Keltz said he can better advocate for the 16 flying training wings, which includes active, Air National Guard and Reserve wings, totaling more than 32,000 Airmen and 1,350 aircraft, and provide solid mentorship to young wing commanders.
"We tried the directed efficiencies two years ago. But when you have wing commanders and nothing in between them and a four-star commander, we found there was something missing," said Keltz.
The activation of 19th AF allows AETC flying wing commanders the ability to enforce non-judicial punishment or an Article 15 with the AETC vice commander as the appellate authority instead of the Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, Keltz said.
"The NAF reinforces proper oversight and relieves some of the dual-role responsibilities of the AETC commander," Keltz continued. "We can fully focus on the mission of flying training."
With a dedicated numbered Air Force like the 19th, AETC will provide mentorship, leadership, and first-class flying training to the next generation of aviators. The 19th AF will be a benchmark for all Airmen who want to receive exceptional pilot, aircrew and maintenance, combat systems operator, and RPA aircrew training, said Keltz.