Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast assumed command of Air Education and Training Command at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in Texas on Thursday.
Kwast succeeds Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, who is retiring effective Dec. 1.
After receiving the guidon, representing his assumption of command, from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein, Kwast challenged AETC to teach airmen how to think smarter and faster than anyone challenging America.
“I want you to teach airmen to be humble, noble and compassionate,” Kwast said. “Airmen who can outthink, outlearn, out-innovate and out-trust any adversary on Planet Earth. Words are cheap. Bold, aggressive actions that bring forward productive movement is all that matters.”
Goldfein praised Roberson’s tenure and accomplishments as AETC commander. Since he took command in July 2015, Roberson played a key role in helping the Air Force rebuild its manning levels and training new airmen since the drawdown of 2014.
In August, AETC rolled out a new Continuum of Learning program that mixes blended learning, modular learning programs, and online on-demand learning that is intended to give airmen more flexibility to reach their goals.
And in June, the Air Force once again began allowing staff sergeants to be nominated to serve as military training instructors, which Roberson earlier this year called a “much-needed policy change.”
Roberson has also pushed AETC to increase its production of new pilots to help ease the Air Force’s alarming pilot shortfall. The Air Force upped its annual pilot production from 1,100 to 1,200 in 2017, but hopes to get it up to 1,400 in the next few years.
However, Roberson cautioned in September that the Air Force will actually need to produce 1,600 new pilots each year. But due to a lack of instructor pilots, planes, and students interested in learning how to fly, Roberson warned that goal is now unattainable, and that the Air Force will need to find other ways to increase its pilot pipeline.
In his farewell address, Roberson thanked AETC’s airmen for everything they’ve done.
“Two and a half years ago, when we began this chapter together, we discussed four overarching focus areas: Motivational mission accomplishment, compassionate care of our airmen and their families, innovation and leadership,” Roberson said. “Throughout my command tour, you definitely delivered on all of these. Every single airman goes through AETC, so thank you for the impact you have had on so many people. This is where airpower starts.”
Kwast graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1986 and was previously the commander and president of Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. Prior to that, he served as Air University’s vice commander, and commander of its Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education. He is an F-15E pilot with more than 3,300 flying hours, including more than 650 combat hours during the Gulf War, Afghanistan war, and operations Southern Watch and Allied Force.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.