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Schwartz a Chief to Mend Fences

by Ward Carroll on June 13, 2008

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With his decision to tap Gen. Norton Schwartz to be the next Air Force chief of staff, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has done two things.

First, he has smashed an Air Force culture ceiling by putting into the top job a pilot who does not come out of the fighter or bomber community.

Second, Gates has put into place someone who can help heal the rift between the Air Force and the Army, one that has grown in recent years over the Air Force’s heavy-handed move to take ownership of the Joint Cargo Aircraft — originally an Army program — its seeming stinginess in getting to ground commanders badly-needed UAV assets and the service’s lack of interest in sending Airmen to help out on Army missions.

“A couple of things about ‘Norty’ Schwartz that a lot of folks didn’t realize [before] — he spent a lot of time in the special ops arena,” said a retired four-star who, like Schwartz, once headed U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. “And any of our blue suit guys who have spent time in the special ops arena have a tendency to be closer to our Army brethren and others. I think that’s a positive thing.”

According to several former field and general Air Force officers, there does need to be some fence-mending after the last five or six years.

Terry Stevens, a retired colonel and personnel officer familiar with Air Force manpower and budget issues, said it was Moseley who fought the “in-lieu-of” program that helped the Army flesh out its ranks in Iraq and Afghanistan with Airmen. Moseley also balked at aggressively getting unmanned aerial vehicles into theater until Gates and Congress recently insisted he deploy them.

And at a time when Air Force missions around the world already were stretching its personnel thin, Moseley ordered a force restructuring that envisioned cutting 40,000 positions so that the money could be redirected to weapons programs such as the F-22 Raptor.

Taken together with the more widely known controversies — including nuclear weapon snafus, corruption scandals and impolitic budget manipulations — Moseley was seen as the head of a service with serious problems.

“I believe that General Moseley is an honorable man with the best interest of the Air Force in his heart, but he was not as politically aware as he should have been,” Stevens said. “He also couldn’t seem to see the big picture from the Department of Defense’s perspective.”

Another retiree, a former wing commander speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Air Force had become estranged from everyone, including its own people.

“Over the last five or six years, the Air Force has continued to lose credibility on the Hill, lose credibility with the Joint Chiefs and with the other service chiefs, and it lost credibility with the Airmen whose feet are on the ramp,” he said. “I’m pleased to see that Gates is cleaning house.”

Retired Maj. Gen. Paul Weaver, a former director of the Air National Guard who flew and commanded fighter and mobility units, said Schwartz would be “a great leader.”

Schwartz, Weaver said, was Air Force director of operations at the Pentagon for several years under Donald Rumsfeld’s tenure, which Weaver said is a testament to Schwartz’s “strong character and strength.”

“I think he’ll be able to calm the storm here [in Washington] and move things forward,” Weaver added.

Weaver also believes that Gates’ decision to move Gen. Duncan McNabb — currently the deputy Air Force chief of staff — to take over Schwartz’ command is a smart move for the Air Force and one that will make McNabb personally happy.

“I think Duncan probably has a smile on his face from ear to ear going back to [Scott],” Weaver said. That’s because McNabb, until assigned to the Pentagon last year, had been commander of Air Mobility Command, a job McNabb loved. McNabb has been a transport pilot throughout his career.

“He always said the greatest job in the world was commanding AMC,” Weaver said. “He did a fantastic job there.” McNabb also made friends on Capital Hill during his time at the Pentagon and during past testimony he has given to congressmen, Weaver said.

“The people love him on the Hill. He’s extremely credible,” Weaver said. “I’m thinking that of anybody, if they’re going to tap Schwartz for chief of staff, they needed somebody who, as we go forward in the new tanker area we’ve got to have somebody [at Transcom] who really knows mobility very well. And McNabb knows it better than anybody. He’s very good and it will be a new team in the Pentagon.”

Taking McNabb’s place at the Pentagon will be Lt. Gen. William Fraser III, a bomber pilot who had been in line to take over Transcom if time and circumstance had not scuttled Schwartz’s original plan to retire.

With his rise to chief of staff, Schwartz is the first to break the fighter/bomber pilot mafia’s hold on the top uniformed job. Not only does he come to the job with mobility background, but in Air Force helicopters as well.

He has flown MC-130 Combat Talons and MH-53 Pave Lows and MH-60 Blackhawk special ops helos, and his operations background goes back to the final days of Vietnam. At the time, he was a crew member taking part in the 1975 airlift evacuation of Saigon. By 1991 he was chief of staff of the Joint Special Operations Task Force for Northern Iraq during the first Gulf War.

– Bryant Jordan

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Ed June 13, 2008 at 8:24 am

So Gates put in command a person that not only understands what boots on the ground can do, but also a commander that understands logistics. It has been said time and time again, to win the battle study tactics, to win the war study logistics. Gates is out to win wars.

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Keith June 13, 2008 at 10:47 am

Agreed Ed, Whoever takes the presidency come November really needs to strongly consider keeping him on, Democrat or Republican.

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Daverino June 13, 2008 at 6:49 pm

Gates is doing everything right that Rumsfeld did wrong. I say keep him around for a few more years no matter who wins in November.

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Joe June 14, 2008 at 2:20 pm

“Breaking The Glass Ceiling” That makes no sense, in the top position in the Air Force you want the one who has the smarts and guts to fly fight and WIN, and it has been proven over the past 60 years that those are fighter jocks…..like it or not….those are the ones who do the best job in the Air Force!!
Only the smartest and bravest cadets from the AFA go on to fly jets….Period!!

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AFOfficer June 14, 2008 at 8:50 pm

Joe’s comment assumes that no one but fighter jocks (and by extension Academy graduates) have “smarts and guts” which is a slap in the face to every Airman on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting alongside our Army compatriots. I have met many “fighter jocks” who couldn’t lead themselves out of a paper bag, treat their support personnel like garbage and have no concept of how to work together in a Joint environment. Go back to dreaming of the wild blue yonder, Joe, and leave leadership decisions to others more qualified.

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Curtis June 15, 2008 at 6:41 am

Saying that only fighter pilots can be AF COS, is like saying that only tankers should be Army COS, or only Hornet drivers should be Navy COS.
The bomber pilots ran the AF for darn near the whole cold war, the fighter pilots have ran the joint for a good decade or so, and have been hit or miss. The whole thing ain’t going to explode simply because we let a C-130/specops guy take command. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t have to be a former pilot, why not a Wing CC or a Missileer? Why shouldn’t we be led by someone who’s ran organizations for thier whole career?
The chief problem with the airforce is right here for all of us to see. Its “Fighter pilots this” and “bomber pilots that” instead of a team, we got work cliques. “Us” and “them”. “We” want one of “our” guys to run the joint. To help “Us” out, and screw “them” over. Forget that. We’re all freakin’ Airmen. From the fighter pilots to the guy on the flight line with an idiot stick guarding his plane, to the girl in the MPF who sent my allotment to God knows where.

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anon June 18, 2008 at 10:17 am

Now if Gates would only clean house in the NAVY, we’d have some really CLEAN services. Oh, wait, Mullen’s at JCS. Okay, get rid of that provincial, vindictive mafioso, and THEN the business end of DoD will be clean.

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Bob Grinders August 15, 2008 at 2:01 am

Joe’s comment assumes that no one but fighter jocks (and by extension Academy graduates) have “smarts and guts” which is a slap in the face to every Airman on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting alongside our Army compatriots. I have met many “fighter jocks” who couldn’t lead themselves out of a paper bag, treat their support personnel like garbage and have no concept of how to work together in a Joint environment. Go back to dreaming of the wild blue yonder, Joe, and leave leadership decisions to others more qualified.

Reply

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