PACAF welcomes new commander

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike
  • Pacific Air Forces
Gen. Kevin B. Schneider took the reins as the new Pacific Air Forces commander during a change of command ceremony here, Feb. 9, 2024.

Schneider succeeds Gen. Ken Wilsbach, who commanded PACAF since July 2020 as the third-longest tenured commander in PACAF’s nearly 80-year history.

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. David W. Allvin, presided over the change of command, noting the command’s importance in the world today.

“We are committed to maintaining a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific, but our pacing challenge consistently threatens regional interests, negatively impacting security, sovereignty, and prosperity,” said Allvin. “I know Gen. Schneider assumes command with his eyes wide open to this contrasting strategic approach and I know he will continue to propel the PACAF team forward to meet the challenges of the future.”

Schneider returns to the Indo-Pacific having spent 12 years of his nearly 36-year career in the region, most recently serving in theater as the U.S. Forces Japan and Fifth Air Force commander from February 2019 to August 2021.

“PACAF Airmen are on the front lines of our reoptimization efforts,” said Allvin. “Adding Gen. Schneider’s leadership and extensive experience in the Pacific will not only benefit them, but also our valued Allies and partners across the region.”

As the 37th COMPACAF, Schneider oversees 46,000 Airmen across the Indo-Pacific, serving principally in Japan, South Korea, Hawaii, Alaska, and Guam. The region accounts for nearly 60 percent of global Gross Domestic Product, two-thirds of global economic growth, five of the world’s nuclear powers, and seven of the ten largest militaries.

“To the men and women of Pacific Air Forces – officers, enlisted, civilians – it is the honor of a lifetime to be part of this team once again,” said Schneider. “I am fortunate to have been assigned in the Pacific for a third of my career, and it feels like home to me.”

Schneider also shared his vision for PACAF Airmen, spread across nine major Air Force installations and three Numbered Air Forces, to continue integrating with Allies and partners.

“The actions we take to ensure stability and deter aggression in the face of multiple growing challenges will have far-reaching and long-lasting impacts,” said Schneider. “But we do not do this work alone. The Allied and partner air forces we team with in the Indo-Pacific grow stronger and more capable each day.”

He additionally highlighted his priorities, which include caring for people, ensuring force readiness, and driving modernization, all of which are included in the PACAF 2030 strategy.

“This is a time of great consequence for the Air Force and the nation, and much is resting on the shoulders of PACAF Airmen,” said Schneider. “But I have absolute faith in the abilities of our Airmen to do the hard work, to solve the tough issues, and to continue to deter those who attempt to undermine peace and stability.”

The event was also attended by many distinguished guests including: the Honorable Kristyn Jones, Under Secretary of the Air Force, and her spouse, Mr. Harry Jones; Adm. John C. Aquilino, Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and his spouse, Ms. Laura Aquilino; Gen. Schneider’s spouse, Ms. Lori Schneider; Gen. Wilsbach’s spouse, Ms. Cindy Wilsbach; Chief Master Sgt. David R. Wolfe, outgoing PACAF command chief, and his spouse, Dr. Doniel Wolfe; and Chief Master Sgt. Kathleen McCool, the new PACAF command chief and her spouse, Chief Master Sgt. (Air Force, retired) Christopher McCool.

Gen. Wilsbach departs the Pacific after devoting more than 20 years of leadership and service in the region. At the end of February, he will become the Air Combat Command commander at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

Admiral Aquilino expressed gratitude for Wilsbach’s dedication throughout his time in command.

“Gen. Wilsbach’s leadership over the past three years has set the stage for continued progress and successes for the air component in the Pacific,” said Aquilino. “With his focus on enhancing warfighting advantage, we’ve seen significant strides in ACE and maritime interdiction capabilities. Your leadership brought forth a lethal edge of our air domain that will deter future attacks.”

Wilsbach’s command was a storied one, having recently hosted the largest-ever Pacific Air Chiefs Symposium, which demonstrated the breadth and depth of relationships built between partner countries, developing the PACAF Strategy 2030, and expanding ACE capabilities.

“Having spent more than 20 years of my career in the Pacific supporting this mission, it’s been my true honor to serve as the PACAF commander,” said Wilsbach. “I am proud to pass my responsibilities to Gen. Schneider knowing he will continue to increase our joint and combined capabilities to deter aggression in the Pacific.”