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Panetta, Dempsey Laud Nominee for Air Force Chief

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced today that President Barack Obama has nominated Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III as the next Air Force chief of staff.

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Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conduct a press conference in the Pentagon press briefing room, May 10, 2012. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“He's a command pilot who's flown more than 3,400 hours during the course of his career, and he's got a distinguished record that includes multiple combat missions during Operation Desert Storm,” Panetta said of Welsh during a Pentagon press conference.

The secretary said as CIA director, he worked closely with Welsh, where he was an associate director for military affairs.

“Over the course of our time working together, I developed a deep appreciation for his wisdom and his counsel,” Panetta said of Welsh. He added that as a former Air Force Academy commandant, Welsh “has the right leadership qualities and distinguished background to follow his extraordinary predecessor, [Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz].”

If confirmed by the Senate, Welsh will succeed Schwartz, who the secretary said will retire this summer.

Schwartz has been a transformative leader in his nearly four years as Air Force chief of staff, the secretary added.

“Under his watch, the Air Force has reinvigorated its stewardship of the nuclear enterprise, made important investments in the capabilities needed for the future, and excelled in a wide range of missions, from the operations over Libya to supporting our ground forces in Afghanistan with close-air support” and ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], Panetta said.

At the same press conference, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Welsh is courageous in combat, has business sense and is passionate about developing future leaders.

Welsh currently serves as commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe; commander of the NATO Allied Air Component Command in Ramstein, Germany; and director of the Joint Air Power Competency Center, Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

“Norty is the elder-statesmen of the Joint Chiefs,” Dempsey said, adding he has served with Schwartz as Army chief of staff and as chairman.

“In both positions, I counted on his wise and principled counsel,” Dempsey said. “But more importantly, the Air Force counted on his leadership at a critical juncture. He delivered, and as a consequence, the Air Force delivers for our nation.”

The chairman said he will have more to say about Schwartz in the days ahead. “For today, I will simply say thank you,” Dempsey said. “Thank you for being a trustworthy wingman [and] thank you for being our nation’s flight lead.”


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Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey
Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz
Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III

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