The Air Force in 2020 will see the departure of its top uniformed leaders — Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright.

Goldfein, who became the Air Force’s top uniformed officer in July 2016, is expected to step down and retire next summer.

Wright is expected to follow soon afterwards and retire next September. He officially became the Air Force’s 18th CMSAF in February 2017.

Their impending departures also mean President Donald Trump will nominate a new Air Force chief of staff — the service’s 22nd — early next year. That new chief will likely pick the E-9 who will succeed Wright as CMSAF.

It’s an important choice for the new chief. The 19th CMSAF will serve as the future chief of staff’s top adviser on the more than 410,000 enlisted airmen in the service and direct the enlisted force. When Goldfein tapped Wright to be the next CMSAF in 2016, shortly after Goldfein took charge of the Air Force, he called it “the most critical personnel selection I will make during my tenure.”

“I’ve learned throughout my career that there is no more important relationship than that between a senior officer and a senior enlisted leader,” Goldfein said. “And when it works, like it has, it’s magic.”

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Wright is the 18th CMSAF.

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 He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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