NEWS | Aug. 27, 2021

Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach, U.S. Forces Japan & 5th Air Force Change of Command Speech

U.S. AIR FORCE GEN. KENNETH S. WILSBACH, COMMANDER, PACIFIC AIR FORCES

 

Ohayou Gozaimasu. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is wonderful returning to such a beautiful place so dear to me and my family.

Allow me to extend a hearty welcome and thank you for being here. I would especially like to recognize: ADM Aquilino; the Honorable Nakayama; the Honorable Kihara; Lieutenant General Abe; Lieutenant General Uchikura; General Sugiyama; General Marumo; the Honorable Ambassador Adams; the Honorable Ambassador Longbottom; Mr. Green; and fellow Flag and General Officers, Commanders, and Senior Enlisted Leaders. Your attendance and continued support of our alliance and partnership is deeply appreciated.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my distinct honor to assist in presiding over this ceremony and the transition of authority. The Indo-Pacific is our nation’s priority theater. It is extremely complex and challenging, which requires dynamic leadership and a deft touch.

Few people understand this better than Lt Gen Kevin “GUMBY” Schneider. His courageous leadership and commitment to the mission, Airmen, and families are nothing short of inspiring. As an air power advocate, he has strengthened our relationship with Japan and our interoperability with the Koku-Jetai.

The demands and changes required of this leadership team were considerable over the past several years, certainly not made easier by a global pandemic and all of the health, logistical, and readiness obstacles that came with it. In spite of all this, Lt Gen Schneider did a truly remarkable job maintaining readiness, sustaining a secure relationship with our Japanese host and ally, and safeguarding our incredible 5th Air Force Airmen and families.

I would be extremely remiss if I did not take a moment to recognize the substantial sacrifices his family has made to support him here in Japan. Lori, the work you did for your own family, and all the families serving under 5th Air Force was incredible. Your tenacity and compassion made you a fierce advocate for so many issues critical to our Airmen: child care, schooling, family housing, spouse employment—the list goes on. You are an unfaltering champion for our military families and the Air Force is lucky to have you. On behalf of myself, Cindy, and all of PACAF, thank you.

Congratulations, Schneider family, on a job extremely well done. Gumby and Lori, I wish you only the very best in your next assignment.

As the Schneiders depart to D.C., we welcome another great Air Force family from D.C. I would like to welcome Lt Gen Ricky Rupp and his wife, Charlotte, back to Japan (congratulations on your promotion).

Lt Gen Rupp returns to the Indo-Pacific after serving admirably as both the Commander of the Air Force District of Washington and the 320th Air Expeditionary Wing Commander at Joint Base Andrews. Along with his most recent command, Ricky’s entire career has well-prepared him for the diverse and complex missions of the Indo-Pacific. During his time in the U.S. capitol, he was responsible for over 33,000 Airmen, dispersed across 500 locations, in more than 100 countries around the world. He did outstanding work for our Airmen and Guardians, and for our country, all during a Presidential election.

Ricky, no doubt you are the right leader at the right time to move this command forward. Charlotte, I know you’ve been a fully committed military spouse for a long time. You’ve done amazing work both as a supportive partner to Ricky, and as a proponent for the needs of our military families. Thank you for your continuing leadership and love, and we look forward to working closely with you both in the coming years.

And PACAF needs strong leadership teams to face the coming challenges. As the Indo-Pacific theater continues to grow and transform, we are constantly updating and refining how Air Power is projected in the region.

For the last 75 years, 5th Air Force has provided that force projection across the Indo-Pacific to ensure regional peace and stability. Under its current mission, 5th Air Force is responsible for managing Air Power both from and in coordination with Japan. To do this successfully requires a close eye on our competition, and an even closer relationship with our Japanese allies. Our alliance with Japan is the lynchpin to achieving our common purpose of maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific. This firm, long-standing relationship between our countries has proven mutually beneficial time and again as we work side-by-side, together, sharing knowledge, expertise, and resources to overcome our shared challenges.

But like all relationships, it takes work. The journey ahead is more complex and promises more nuanced approaches as populations the world over become more advanced and more interconnected than ever. We must do all we can to support and reinforce our alliance with Japan if we are to find success against our competitors and help create lasting peace.

Make no mistake, our competitors are paying close attention. In addition to cementing our regional alliances and partnerships, we must be equally as vigilant and determined when it comes to those who seek to disrupt regional security and sovereignty. Nations like the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, and Russia are actively pursuing their own interests in Asia and the Pacific, counter to a rules-based international order and threatening the stability of the Indo-Pacific and the world.

The U.S. must continue to strategically compete every single day, in close coordination with our allies and partners. This theater is complex and there are no easy answers. Technology, geo-politics, and the environment, are just a few variables that seem to change every day. PACAF and 5th Air Force Airmen must be ready to challenge those who don’t share a common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. To strategically compete against a near-peer adversary requires a united focus…from us and our allies and partners. We must always be vigilant to deter and deny, and to fight and win if needed. Our PACAF Airmen are ready, and deserve the best leaders our Air Force can offer.

Gumby, Ricky, both of you have done extremely well to get to where you are. You are the best in our Air Force, or you would not be here. Congratulations to you both on these next momentous steps in your careers. I know you will do us, our Airmen, and our nation proud.

Domo Arigato Gozaimasu.