The U.S. Air Force may soon get a new face for its presence in the Pacific.
The Biden administration on Monday tapped Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider to lead Pacific Air Forces, the branch in charge of organizing, training and equipping American air units from Alaska to Guam. His nomination would bring a seasoned fighter pilot with years of experience at PACAF headquarters to the region as the U.S. looks to stave off Chinese aggression and bolster its own long-range capabilities there.
As PACAF commander, Schneider would ensure that squadrons of fighter and bomber jets, surveillance aircraft and more are ready to be tasked by the larger U.S. Indo-Pacific Command on missions around the region. Around 46,000 troops and civilian staff are spread across Air Force bases in Alaska, Hawaii, South Korea, Japan and Guam.
If Congress approves the move, Schneider would also earn a promotion to four-star general. He currently works as the staff director at Air Force headquarters in the Pentagon.
Before moving to Virginia, he spent six years in leadership positions around the Indo-Pacific, including as chief of staff at PACAF and INDOPACOM and commander of U.S. forces in Japan, according to his official biography.
Early in his career, he also spent several years at South Korea’s Osan Air Base and Japan’s Misawa Air Base, and returned to the Korean Peninsula as the 80th Fighter Squadron commander at Kunsan Air Base in 2003.
He is a 1988 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.
A career fighter pilot, Schneider has flown more than 500 hours in combat in the F-15 and F-16 fighter jets as part of Operations Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and Inherent Resolve — the U.S. missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Schneider is a decorated commander who has received the Defense and Air Force Distinguished Service Medals, the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Legion of Merit. He has also earned at least two Bronze Star medals, an award recognizing meritorious achievement in connection with operations against enemy forces.
One Bronze Star was awarded in 2014 after his year in command of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. The wing boasts one of the most varied sets of Air Force missions and was a key launching point for the U.S. wars on terror groups in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
Schneider would return to PACAF headquarters in Hawaii as the U.S. looks to strengthen its long-range strike, maritime and island-hopping capabilities in the region to bolster its own standing and to defend U.S. ally Taiwan against a Chinese invasion.
U.S. officials argue the Chinese military is the top “pacing threat” for American forces, spurring efforts to develop new hypersonic and nuclear weapons, stealthier aircraft and more flexible combat tactics to outrun Beijing’s technological advances. Pacific Air Forces is also part of a recent push to further strengthen ties with Australia, a longtime U.S. intelligence-sharing partner, and to contain other regional threats like North Korea.
The Pentagon has not announced a next assignment for Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, who has served as PACAF’s top officer since July 2020.
Lt. Gen. Scott Pleus is next in line to replace Schneider as Air Force staff director, the Defense Department added Monday. He is currently the deputy commander of U.S. Forces Korea, among other titles.
The Biden administration has also picked Maj. Gen. Laura Lenderman to serve as Schneider’s deputy at PACAF headquarters, as well as for promotion to lieutenant general. She is currently U.S. Transportation Command’s operations director in Illinois.
It’s unclear how quickly the latest slate of nominees may move through the congressional approval process. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., has stalled military confirmations for weeks to protest the Pentagon’s efforts to ensure service members can access reproductive health care after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year.
Around 200 military officials are currently awaiting confirmation votes in the Senate. None have been confirmed since March 30.
Other Air Force nominees announced Monday include:
- Maj. Gen. David Harris Jr., for promotion to lieutenant general as the service’s deputy chief of staff for long-term future planning at the Pentagon. Harris is currently the deputy commander of Air Forces Central at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
- Maj. Gen. David Iverson, for promotion to lieutenant general as the deputy commander of U.S. Forces Korea, among other titles. He is currently PACAF’s air and cyberspace operations director in Hawaii.
- Brig. Gen. Dale White, who was nominated for promotion to major general in March, is now on the fast track to lieutenant general. He is on tap to become the Air Force’s highest-ranking uniformed acquisition official, the military deputy to the assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics. White currently oversees the Air Force’s portfolio of fighters and advanced aircraft in Ohio.
Defense News Congress reporter Bryant Harris contributed to this story.
Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.