Guard's First Four-Star General Takes Office
By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2008 Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley pinned on his fourth star and became chief of the National Guard Bureau in a ceremony at the Pentagon yesterday.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined McKinley's wife, daughter and son in adding the new star to the general’s uniform.
More than 300 people from all ranks, services and many states’ National Guards then watched Gates swear in McKinley as the first four-star general to lead the National Guard in its 372-year history.
"The promotion of Gen. Craig McKinley to this rank, to serve in this post, is in recognition of his outstanding leadership abilities and shows the confidence the president and I have in him to be the nation's senior Guard officer at such a critical time," Gates said.
McKinley succeeds Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, who served in the post for more than five years and in January will become deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command, the first Guard officer to hold that position.
McKinley joins George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant and two other former four-star officers who served as Guardsmen during their military careers.
"It's a rich and high honor to be the 26th chief of the National Guard Bureau," McKinley said. "I will give it every bit of energy, every bit of heart and soul that I can possess to make sure that our National Guard and our soldiers and airmen are well taken care of, and I will work very closely and faithfully with the services."
Of the nation’s more than 460,000 citizen-soldiers and -airmen, some 68,000 Army and 5,700 Air Guard members are on active duty today for operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. On any given day, an average of 17 governors call out their National Guard for a variety of domestic needs, Guard Bureau officials said.
McKinley is the fourth Air National Guard officer to serve as chief of the National Guard Bureau. He most recently served as director for the Air National Guard. There, he was responsible for policies, plans and programs affecting more than 106,000 airmen.
Gates said McKinley successfully led the Air Guard during a time of severe manpower reductions and major challenges posed by the global war on terrorism, base realignment and closure implementation, budget changes and the transformation of the National Guard from a strategic reserve to an operational force.
McKinley received his Air Force commission in 1974 after graduating from Southern Methodist University in Dallas with a degree in business administration. He holds master's degrees in management and economics and in national security strategy. He is a command pilot with more than 4,000 flight hours.
(Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith serves at the National Guard Bureau.)