Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly, the commander of the 12th Air Force, has been nominated to become the Air Force’s next deputy chief of staff for operations, the Pentagon said Thursday.
If confirmed as A3, Kelly will succeed Lt. Gen. Mark Nowland, who is retiring Oct. 1. The deputy chief of staff for operations determines what requirements, capabilities and training the Air Force needs to carry out its missions.
Kelly has led the 12th and Air Forces Southern, or AFSOUTH, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona since October 2016, overseeing all Air Force units in Central and South America and the Caribbean. He is an experienced and decorated command pilot with more than 5,500 hours flying the F-15, F-16, F/A-18 and F-35A, including 800 hours in combat.
He has received the Defense Superior Service Medal with an oak leaf cluster, the Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross with valor device with oak leaf cluster, and the Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, among others.
Kelly has held two commands at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. From July 2007 to September 2008, he served as vice commander of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, and from July 2014 to July 2015, he returned to the 455th as its commander.
Kelly then went on to serve as commander of the Ninth Air Force at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, and special assistant to the commander of Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia. He has also led the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina and the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, and served as chief of staff for Pacific Air Forces, among other assignments.
The Pentagon also announced that Defense Secretary James Mattis has nominated Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach to be deputy commander of U.S. Forces Korea, and commander of the 7th Air Force at Osan Air Base Korea, as well as commander of Air Component Command under United Nations Command and Air Component Command under Combined Forces Command. Wilsbach is now commander of Alaskan Command under U.S. Northern Command and the 11th Air Force at Pacific Air Forces.
Two major generals have been nominated to receive their third star:
♦ Maj. Gen. Christopher Weggeman, commander of the 24th Air Force at Air Force Space Command and commander of Air Forces Cyber, U.S. Cyber Command, at Joint Base San Antonio in Texas, to be deputy commander of Air Combat Command at Langley-Eustis.
♦ Maj. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, commander of the 8th Air Force at Air Force Global Strike Command and commander of the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, to succeed Wilsbach as commander of Alaskan Command and the 11th Air 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.