Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced May 10 that the president has nominated Gen. Mark A. Welsh III to be the next chief of staff of the Air Force, succeeding Gen. Norton Schwartz, who has served in the position since August 2008.
“I’m tremendously honored and deeply humbled by the nomination to serve as the next Air Force chief of staff,” said Welsh, who is currently serving as the U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander. “If confirmed, I’ll do everything in my power to live up to the example set by Gen. Norty Schwartz and the other great officers who have led our service so well throughout its remarkable history.
“It’s always a great day to be an airman … but this one is extra special for me. I came into the Air Force because I was in love with the airplanes; I stayed in because I fell in love with the people,” he said. “Being allowed to continue to serve them, our Joint partners, and the nation in this role would be the privilege of a lifetime.”
Welsh entered the Air Force in June 1976 as a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has been assigned to numerous operational, command and staff positions. Prior to his current position, he was the associate director of the Central Intelligence Agency for Military Affairs at the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C.
During a Pentagon press briefing May 10, Panetta recalled his close working relationship with Welsh when the secretary served as the CIA director.
“Over the course of our time working together, I developed a deep appreciation for his wisdom and his counsel,” said Panetta. “A former Air Force academy commandant, I believe that he has the right leadership qualities and distinguished background to follow his extraordinary predecessor, General Schwartz.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey echoed Panetta’s praise for the nominee.
“I am pleased to join Secretary Panetta in applauding the nomination of Mark Welsh to be the twentieth chief of staff of our United States Air Force,” said Dempsey. “I know about his courage in combat, his acumen in acquisition and his passion for developing future leaders. Mark is ready to join the ranks of renowned airmen like Carl Spaatz, Curtis Lemay, David Jones and also his immediate predecessor, Norty Schwartz.”
Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley described Welsh as an outstanding Airman and leader.
“General Welsh’s proven performance, deep experience and leadership ability make him the ideal candidate to be the next chief of staff of the Air Force,” Donley said. “Pending his confirmation, I look forward to working with Mark to continue building on the outstanding accomplishments achieved by Gen. Norty Schwartz in support of our Air Force.”
Schwartz also praised the president’s selection of Welsh to succeed him, saying he is the right leader at the right time for the Air Force.
“We are at an inflection point for our Air Force as we shape a smaller but superb Air Force in an increasingly complex geopolitical and security environment,” Schwartz said. “Mark Welsh is a natural leader with an impressive record of accomplishments and a wide range of experience. He and his lifelong partner Betty are perfectly suited to lead our airmen in the years ahead.”
Schwartz will complete his four-year tenure as Air Force chief of staff in August.
Welsh previously served in the Pentagon as chief of the Defense and Space Operations Division on the Joint Staff, and as director of Global Power Programs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition.
He is a command pilot with more than 3,400 flying hours, principally in the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the A-10 Thunderbolt II. Welsh has received numerous awards for his military service including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Defense Superior Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster and the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster.
The president has forwarded Welsh’s nomination to the Senate for consideration and confirmation.