The Biden administration has tapped Air Force Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, the service’s top officer in the Pacific, to run Air Combat Command, the Pentagon announced Thursday.
If confirmed by the Senate, Wilsbach would come in at a time of transition for ACC, the Air Force’s largest umbrella organization for air warfare. He would bring to ACC his experience as a career fighter pilot who has spent most of the past four decades in the Pacific, as the U.S. military views China as its top strategic threat.
He is set to succeed Gen. Mark Kelly, who has led the command since August 2020. Air Force Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider was nominated April 20 to replace Wilsbach at Pacific Air Forces; it’s unclear what Kelly’s next move will be.
Wilsbach was commissioned into the Air Force in 1985 and became a decorated pilot with more than 5,000 flight hours in the F-15C, F-16C and F-22 fighter jets and MC-12 intelligence plane. His awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star, among others, according to his official biography.
Prior to leading PACAF, he recently served as the deputy commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, commander of U.S. Northern Command’s Alaska branch, and operations director at U.S. Central Command. He joined PACAF in July 2020.
ACC oversees more than 156,000 personnel across nearly 250 locations around the world. It supplies fighter and intelligence-collection aircraft, cyber warfare specialists and more to commanders in North America, South America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
The command is beginning to retire hundreds of its older aircraft after decades at war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, and hopes to build a more flexible and technologically advanced force for the years ahead.
The Pentagon also announced Thursday that Maj. Gen. Linda Hurry will pin on a third star to become the deputy commander of Air Force Materiel Command, the service’s acquisition and maintenance hub. She currently serves as the logistics director at Air Force headquarters.
It’s unclear when their nominations might get across the finish line. Hundreds of military job changes are on hold in the Senate as 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.
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.