Archive for August 5, 2012

WASHINGTON: Senate Confirms Obama Pick for Air Force Chief (UPDATE)

Updates to add Welsh taking over as 20th Air Force Chief of Staff and include photo

Clearing Political Turbulence

Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welch III

Gen. Mark Welsh has made it through the politically bumpy election year Senate confirmation process to become the new head of the U.S. Air Force.

The Senate voted to confirm Welsh as Air Force chief of staff Thursday (Aug. 2) just hours after a one senator – dissatisfied with the Air Force’s response to a sex abuse scandal at the service’s primary basic training facility – removed his objection to Welsh’s nomination, known as a “hold.”

Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, had no objection to Welsh — a highly-regarded 36-year veteran of the Air Force and most recently commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe. But Cornyn blocked the general’s nomination from going forward until he got assurances the Air Force would adequately address the sex assault scandal at Lackland Air Force Base outside San Antonio, Texas where several training instructors have been accused of assaulting female recruits. A former instructor at the base was sentenced last month to 20 years in prison after a court martial found him guilty of rape and sexual assault. The investigation continues.

After meeting with Welsh, Cornyn issued a statement saying he believed Welsh “shares my grave concern” about the situation at the training base, part of Joint Base San Antonio, and “demonstrated a genuine resolve to improving Air Force-wide policies to prevent a recurrence.” Cornyn lifted his hold.

In May, another senator threatened to hold up all Air Force command nominations – including Welsh’s – in a dispute over the costs of transferring an F-16 fighter squadron from one Alaskan air base to another. That dispute cooled after Air Force officials arranged a meeting with Sen. Mark Begich, an Alaska Democrat.

President Obama nominated Welsh, 58, for the top Air Force command position May 10.   A 1976 Air Force Academy graduate, Welsh is a command pilot with more than 3,400 flying hours – mostly in the F-16 Fighting Falcon, an air superiority fighter, and the A-10 Thunderbolt, a ground attack jet also known as the “Warthog.”

An A-10 Thunderbolt 2, known affectionately as the Warthog.

As head of Air Force operations in Europe, Welsh was responsible for an area of operations that included 51 countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. He also had administrative control for U.S. Air Forces Africa, which provides logistical support and aircraft for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). Previously, Welsh served as associate director for military affairs at the Central Intelligence Agency.

He took over from retiring Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz at an Aug. 10 ceremony. See photo below.

From left to right: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley, retiring Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, incoming USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, James A. Roy at the Air Force Chief of Staff Transition Ceremony, Joint Base Andrews, Md., August 10, 2012. (Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

August 5, 2012 at 1:39 pm 3 comments


August 2012


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