Gates Recommends McKinley to Be Guard’s First Four-Star General
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 16, 2008 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has recommended the Air National Guard’s director for a promotion that would make him the first four-star general in National Guard history.
Pending nomination by President Bush and confirmation by the Senate, Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley would become the chief of the National Guard Bureau.
McKinley would succeed Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum. Gates has recommended that the president nominate Blum to be deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command.
“General McKinley is well qualified for this important and historic assignment,” Gates said during a news conference in the Pentagon today. “He has held command positions at every level of the Air Force in his 34 years of military service.”
As director of the Air Guard, he has been responsible for overseeing all policies, plans and programs affecting more than 104,000 Guardsmen in 88 flying units and 200 geographically separated bases in the United States and its territories, Gates said.
Blum has served as the chief of the National Guard Bureau for five years. It has been a time of wrenching change for Guardsmen, Gates said, and Blum has pushed for better training, equipment and support for the demanding range of missions the Guard has taken on since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
The independent Commission on the National Guard and Reserves recommended the chief of the National Guard Bureau be a four-star position. Congress agreed and made the recommendation law as part of the fiscal 2008 National Defense Authorization Act.
“The elevation of the National Guard chief to four stars recognizes the enhanced importance of the Guard to America’s overall national defense,” Gates said. “In recent years, … the National Guard has transformed from an often neglected strategic reserve to a force that is an indispensible component of the operational military.”
The promotion also recognizes that the chief will serve as a bridge for the states to the federal government and the active components of the military.
McKinley “will provide the leadership that will take the National Guard to the next level,” Blum said in a written message to Guard units today. “He is a competent, caring, and proven leader.”
The transition to McKinley will be seamless. “I am confident Craig's nomination will posture our joint organizations -- the Army National Guard and Air National Guard units -- to remain ready, reliable, accessible and essential to our nation,” Blum wrote.
McKinley received his Air Force commission after completing the ROTC program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He is a command pilot with more than 4,000 flying hours, primarily in the T-38, F-106, F-16 and F-15. Additionally, General McKinley has been pilot in command in the C-131 and C-130 aircraft.