Tuesday, June 10, 2008

TOP STORY >>AF chief trained at base

Leader editor-in-chief

The general nominated to be the chief of staff of the Air Force received his C-130 training at Little Rock Air Force Base and was a squadron commander here in the 1970s.

Four-star Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, commander of U.S. Transportation Command at Scott AFB, Ill., has been nominated by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to lead the Air Force.

Schwartz visited Little Rock Air Force Base last September when Col. Ro-wayne Schatz, commander of the 314th Airlift Wing, was promoted to brigadier general. Schwartz’s wife, Suzie, who graduated from Jacksonville High School, also attended the ceremony.

Schatz served under Schwartz as his executive secretary at transportation command in 2006 and 2007. Schatz was then promoted to deputy director of operations there before moving here as wing commander in May 2007.
Schatz hailed Schwartz as an excellent choice to lead the Air Force.

“I was excited for the Air Force when I heard of his nomination,” Schatz said in an interview Tuesday. “He has tremendous integrity. He’s smart. He’s a warrior. He’s dedicated to doing the right thing. He’ll provide the best value for the taxpayers’ dollar.

“I’ve watched him closely. He’s an outstanding leader,” Schatz continued. “He’s one of the finest officers I had the privilege of serving under.

“He’s well-respected throughout the Department of Defense. The Air Force will be in good hands. He’s dedicated his service to his country.”

Schwartz 56, received his C-130 training at LRAFB in 1974-75, not long after he graduated from the Air Force Academy. He was a flight examiner with the 61st Tactical Airlift Squadron here from 1977-79.

Schwartz, a New Jersey native, was picked Monday for his new job after Gates fired Gen. Michael Moseley as Air Force chief. Gates also dismissed Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and has nominated Michael Donley for the civilian job.

Moseley and Wynne were among those blamed for two recent embarrassing episodes involving the delivery of cruise missiles from an air base in North Dakota to Louisiana. The mistake was so serious that President Bush was informed as soon as the error was discovered.

The Air Force had also mistakenly shipped nuclear fuses to Taiwan instead of helicopter batteries.

Gates’ choice for Air Force chief of staff has a transportation background — Schwartz heads the military’s global transportation system --— and has a long history in special operations. Gates wanted someone with more than just aerial combat experience.

The new chief, who was a C-130 pilot in Vietnam, can rapidly deliver personnel and supplies worldwide — but he is also expected to develop new strategies, such as unmanned aerial reconnaissance, along with an emphasis on special operations.

The C-130s play a critical role in transportation command, said Maj. Kimberley Garbett, public affairs spokesperson at Little Rock Air Force Base.

“They’re a huge part of our airlift into combat,” Garbett said.

The defense secretary has said the Air Force must do more in the war on terror and has emphasized increased responsibilities for the service in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Gates has also decided to keep Air Force levels at 330,000 rather than cut down to 300,000, which is about half the number of personnel the service had at the end of the Cold War.

At Schatz’s promotion ceremony here last fall, Schwartz discussed the importance of civilian control of the military.

“What we do today is unique and special, because in our country, it is the civilian leadership that decides the who, what and why of our military operations. It is an obligation and responsibility called upon those who serve in the senior ranks of our services to assist our civilian leaders with the when and how,” Schwartz said.

“It’s a meaningful moment to come and pin Wayne Schatz to rank of brigadier general in the Air Force. What a thrill it is to be a part of this lovely moment,” Schwartz said at Schatz’s promotion.

Turning to Schwartz, the new general said it was special to have him at the ceremony. “There is no one else I would prefer to do this for us (than Schwartz),” he said.

In announcing the appointments and calling for more professionalism and improvements, Gates said that he wants “a service that is, from top to bottom, more reflective and more responsive to shortcomings that may arise in this or any other critical area.”

Heather Hartsell, Leader staff writer, contributed to this article.