The change of command ceremony, held at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, was presided over by current Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein and Adm. Philip Davidson, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
Brown will officially be appointed the Air Force’s 22nd chief of staff in a ceremony Aug. 6, which will also recognize Goldfein’s retirement.
As head of PACAF and its 46,000 airmen, Wilsbach now serves as the air component commander for U.S. Pacific Command. His command oversees three numbered Air Forces and nine Air Force installations, including Andersen Air Force Base in Guam; Kadena, Misawa and Yokota air bases in Japan; and Kunsan and Osan air bases in South Korea.
Wilsbach said in his speech that his priorities as PACAF commander will include improving its forces’ readiness and resilience, working with allies and partners, supporting airmen and their families, and coordinating with other parts of the military in the Pacific theater.
“I’ve been fortunate to serve here about half of my career, and over that time the theater has certainly matured,” Wilsbach said. “It’s changed dramatically, it’s become a lot more complex, and it’s become, frankly, the strategic epicenter for our nation. And I am totally energized for the opportunity, and I’m very proud to lead the airmen in the priority theater.”
Wilsbach was previously commander of the 7th Air Force and deputy commander of U.S. Forces Korea, based at Osan Air Base in South Korea. He also served as commander of the 11th Air Force and U.S. Northern Command’s Alaskan Command at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. He has been the director of operations at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base and commander of the 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base in Japan, among other assignments.
Goldfein noted that Wilsbach’s stint as PACAF commander will mark his ninth assignment in the Pacific.
“Ken is no stranger to the Indo-Pacific” area of responsibility, Goldfein said. “He is laser-focused on joint warfighting excellence, ready today to fight tonight. ‘Cruiser’ [Wilsbach’s call sign] and Cindy [his wife] epitomize the concept of a command team and do it with unparalleled class and style.”
Wilsbach is a command pilot who was commissioned in 1985, and has more than 5,000 hours flying aircraft such as the F-15, F-16C, F-22 and MC-12. He flew 71 combat missions in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, as well as over Iraq as part of operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch, helping maintain the no-fly zones there in the 1990s and early 2000s.
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.