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USAFE commander to cadets: Get ready
Gen. Mark Welsh III speaks to Air Force Academy cadets in the Academy's Arnold Hall Theater Nov. 1, 2011. Welsh was nominated by the president to succeed Gen. Norton Schwartz as Air Force chief of staff, the Defense Department announced May 10, 2012. Schwartz is scheduled to retire in August. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sarah Chambers)
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'76 graduate nominated as next chief of staff

Posted 5/10/2012   Updated 5/10/2012 Email story   Print story


5/10/2012 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe has been nominated by the president to succeed Gen. Norton Schwartz as the Air Force chief of staff, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced May 10.

Gen. Mark Welsh III will be the 20th chief of staff of the Air Force and, if he is confirmed, will be the fourth Air Force Academy graduate to hold the service's highest commissioned office.

"I'm tremendously honored and deeply humbled by the nomination to serve as the next Air Force chief of staff," Welsh said Welsh. "If confirmed, I'll do everything in my power to live up to the example set by Gen. Norty Schwartz and the other great officers who have led our service so well throughout its remarkable history.

"It's always a great day to be an Airman ... but this one is extra special for me. I came into the Air Force because I was in love with the airplanes; I stayed in because I fell in love with the people," he said. "Being allowed to continue to serve them, our Joint partners, and the nation in this role would be the privilege of a lifetime."

Welsh graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1976. He traveled to the Academy in November of 2011 to talk to cadets about what awaits them once they enter the active-duty Air Force.

"We expect you to be credible," he told the cadets. "When you tell your Airmen later that you're going to do something for them, you'd better do it. If you tell them you're going to follow up on an action for them, you'd better follow up. If you tell them you're going to look into something for their family, you'd better look into it. Folks, you get one chance. One chance. Be ready."

Welsh has been assigned to numerous operational, command and staff positions. Prior to his current position, he was the associate director of the Central Intelligence Agency for Military Affairs at the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C.

Panetta recalled his close working relationship with Welsh when the secretary served as the CIA director during a Pentagon press briefing May 10.

"Over the course of our time working together, I developed a deep appreciation for his wisdom and his counsel," Panetta said. "A former Air Force academy commandant, I believe that he has the right leadership qualities and distinguished background to follow his extraordinary predecessor, General Schwartz."

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey echoed Panetta's praise for the nominee.

"I am pleased to join Secretary Panetta in applauding the nomination of Mark Welsh to be the 20th chief of staff of our United States Air Force," Dempsey said. "I know about his courage in combat, his acumen in acquisition and his passion for developing future leaders. Mark is ready to join the ranks of renowned Airmen like Carl Spaatz, Curtis Lemay, David Jones and also his immediate predecessor, Norty Schwartz."

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley described Welsh as an outstanding Airman and leader.

"General Welsh's proven performance, deep experience and leadership ability make him the ideal candidate to be the next chief of staff of the Air Force," Donley said. "Pending his confirmation, I look forward to working with Mark to continue building on the outstanding accomplishments achieved by Gen. Norty Schwartz in support of our Air Force."

Schwartz also praised the president's selection of Welsh to succeed him, saying he is the right leader at the right time for the Air Force.

"We are at an inflection point for our Air Force as we shape a smaller but superb Air Force in an increasingly complex geopolitical and security environment," Schwartz said. "Mark Welsh is a natural leader with an impressive record of accomplishments and a wide range of experience. He and his lifelong partner Betty are perfectly suited to lead our Airmen in the years ahead."

Schwartz will complete his four-year tenure as Air Force chief of staff in August.

Welsh previously served in the Pentagon as chief of the Defense and Space Operations Division on the Joint Staff, and as director of Global Power Programs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition.

He is a command pilot with more than 3,400 flying hours, principally in the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the A-10 Thunderbolt II. Welsh has received numerous awards for his military service, including a Defense Distinguished Service Medal, two Distinguished Service Medals, two Defense Superior Service Medals, two Legion of Merit medals and two Distinguished Flying Crosses.

The president has forwarded Welsh's nomination to the Senate for consideration and confirmation.

(Information compiled from Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs and staff reports.)

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