The airmen of Twelfth Air Force and Air Forces Southern welcomed a new commander during a ceremony Oct. 3 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly received the Twelfth Air Force flag from Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, commander of U.S. Southern Command, during the change of command ceremony before a formation of Airmen, as well as base and Tucson community leaders.
“In the military dictionary under all that is awesome and all that is cool, we get to lead the leaders who lead the Airmen entrusted with training and being the finest attack pilots on Earth,” Kelly said as he addressed each mission nested under Twelfth Air Force’s purview, “[We] lead the Airmen who train and operate our nation’s critical remotely piloted aircraft wings; our heavy-hitting [F-15E] Strike Eagles; our career surveillance professionals; our weather experts; the Airmen on the leading edge of our nation’s leading edge, with fifth-generation strike capability.”
The general continued as he addressed the Air Forces Southern portion of his new command.
“We get to lead the security cooperation efforts for 31 key Air Force partners in Central and South America; lead the Air Operations Center with responsibility for the command and control of the air assets across the combatant command; and of course you get to lead 20,000 of the finest sons and daughters this nation has ever produced. And if you get to do that, and that’s part of your job description, then it’s a really good day,” he said.
Kelly takes over from Lt. Gen. Chris Nowland, who leaves to become the new Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations at the Pentagon after almost two years as commander.
“You all go out there and do the work to make America safe and help defend the southern approach,” Nowland said to the Airmen of Twelfth Air Force and Air Forces Southern. “Other nations that want to come into the hemisphere need to know that we work with our [partner nations] … we bring the shared values of the Americas together.”
Kelly comes to the position from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., where he briefly served as Special Assistant to the Commander, Air Combat Command, following his command of Ninth Air Force at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. He is a command pilot with more than 5,500 flying hours, including 800 combat hours in fighter aircraft. In addition to his command of 9 AF, Kelly has led three different wings, including the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, from 2014-2015.
“When you look at what our Airmen are doing from Twelfth Air Force in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and across Air Forces Southern, Airmen lead the charge on the combat frontier and our southern flank,” Kelly said. “No one does it better than us.”
Kelly closed his remarks with a quote from Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who recently said about Airmen, “Whether it’s air, space or cyber, Airmen thrive where there is no precedent; they step forward where there is no predecessor. They do so with pride, energy and efficiency and they find a way to win.”