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U.S. Forces Japan
The Cornerstone of Peace and Security in the Pacific
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| July 8, 2019
Change of Command – 18 WG Remarks by Lt. Gen. Kevin B. Schneider Commander, U.S. Forces Japan / Commander, 5th Air Force, Pacific Air Forces July 8, 2019
5th Air Force
Kadena Air Base, Okinawa –
Good Morning, let me begin by once again thanking:
Vice Governor Jahana
Consul General Koepcke
U.S. And Jieitai Commanders And Chiefs
And our distinguished guests and friends of Team Kadena, mission partners, and proud Shogun Warriors.
Thank you for taking the time to attend today’s Change of Command ceremony.
I am glad to be at Kadena Air Base for this momentous occasion, and am absolutely honored to bid a fond farewell to Brig. Gen. Case “Basket” Cunningham, and to welcome Brig. Gen. Joel “Joker” Carey back to the “Keystone of the Pacific.”
I know the Shogun Warriors, our Koku Jieitai allies, and all of Team Kadena are sad to see Basket leave Japan; however, the Air Force has selected an outstanding new warrior Airman to fill Basket’s shoes.
-Brig Gen Cunningham’s Accomplishments-
Basket assumed command of the 18th Wing July 2017; and I can absolutely say he has done a world class job as a commander, leader and Ambassador for the U.S.-Japan alliance over the past two years.
As the 18th Wing Commander, Basket commanded 5 Groups and 26 Squadrons consisting of more than 13,000 personnel. He also managed the difficult task of running Kadena Air Base – the largest U.S. Air Force Combat Wing and largest Air Force installation in the Indo-Pacific – consisting of more than 30 mission partners spanning five major commands and three sister services, with over 20,000 military and civilian personnel and their families.
Basket’s superb leadership ensured more than 80 assigned aircraft, including F-15 fighters, KC-135 refuelers, HH-60G rescue helicopters, and E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, were always ready to defend U.S. and Japanese interests by maintaining the highest standards of readiness with agile, deployable, combat power.
This was seen half-way through General Cunningham’s command when he led the Wing through the implementation of the strategic pressure campaign and supported vital operations to deter North Korean aggression.
And, over the latter half of his command, as the U.S. continued to focus on great power competition with China and Russia, he established new tactics, techniques and procedures designed to test the Wing’s ability to rapidly deploy combat air power and execute flight operations from multiple locations – separating via dispersal, recovery, and then rapidly resuming operations across multiple airports and airfields.
Although this was the first formal exercise of its kind, Basket’s team is well versed in dispersal operations thanks to their experience with typhoons. As the Typhoon Cyclone Condition of Readiness (TCCOR) authority for the entire island of Okinawa, Basket led the island through 25 typhoons and 1 super-typhoon. His rapid response to changing weather conditions kept our aircraft, installations, and personnel safe.
The many accomplishments and advancements made by the 18th Wing speaks volumes about Basket’s leadership, vision, and energy; however, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to also thank everyone here for their role in your success.
To the men and women of the 18th Wing -- As innovative Airmen, American Ambassadors, servicemembers and civilians supporting Team Kadena, you are the driving force that allows the U.S.-Japan alliance to grow strong while simultaneously evolving to meet 21st century security requirements.
You are the fuel that drove General Cunningham’s success. I am grateful for your selfless service and dedication.
Your focused efforts set the standard for excellence leading the Wing to earn more than 130 Air Force, MAJCOM and Numbered Air Force level awards, most notably winning consecutively The Air Force “Outstanding Unit Award – Combat Wing” 2017 and 2018!
But, we cannot achieve success alone. We must continue to partner with our Japanese allies to address this new security environment, which presents significant challenges for both our nations. The strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance has been the foundation for peace and stability in the region for more than 70 years, and our alliance is more vital than ever.
-Strengthening the Alliance-
As a true American Ambassador, Basket was dedicated to enhancing Team Kadena’s relationship with our alliance partners at all levels.
The best example of deepening respect and understanding with our community leaders is the overhaul of the community engagement program. General Cunningham initiated a 22-month effort to closely forge relationships, cross-talk, and collaboration with Kadena Air Base leadership, mission partners, Japan Self-Defense Force leaders, Okinawa mayors, and Government of Japan officials to build and strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance.
Through bilateral training, weekly engagements, and a 45% increase in community engagement events, the alliance here is the strongest it has been in recent history.
Basket, you have done a phenomenal job leading these Warriors during a very dynamic time in our history…and you should be proud of all of the accomplishments the Wing has seen during your tenure. After two years of superior leadership, you are leaving this wing stronger than ever and ready at a moment’s notice to respond to any crisis or contingency.
I wish you every success in your new assignment as the Deputy Director of Operations for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command at Camp Smith, Hawaii. You will bring a wealth of operational experience and knowledge and a deeper regional and cultural understanding to USINDOPACOM. I have no doubt you will continue to do great things to support a free and open Indo-Pacific.
As you leave here, you can leave with a sense of tremendous accomplishment and know the Wing that you put so much time and devotion to is going to be in good hands.
Now it’s my pleasure to introduce the incoming commander, Brig. Gen. Joel “Joker” Carey.
Also, let me take this opportunity to welcome General Carey’s wife Mendy, and four children, Jacob, Matthew, Jack, and daughter, Grace. Thank you for your support to Joel and welcome back to Team Kadena!
Brig. Gen. Carey joins us from Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was dual-hatted as the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing Commander and the Train Advise Assist Command-Air (TAAC-Air) Commanding General.
He is a proven officer and leader who has the right mix of operational and staff experience to continue Team Kadena’s proud legacy.
In addition to being a great leader, Joker is a command pilot with more than 3,100 hours, including more than 600 combat hours.
This is his third assignment to Kadena Air Base, having served early in his career here as a Flight Commander (1998-2001), and then later as the 44th Fighter Squadron Commander (2012).
Joker – You’re taking the lead of a Wing that is in full stride. I encourage you to continue build on recent successes, and develop and refine warfighting concepts like Agile Combat Employment; continue to foster a culture of innovation by empowering our Airmen to solve our most dynamic challenges. Finally, continue to build on the already strong relationship with our Japanese allies and community partners…those relationships will continue to be a force multiplier for years to come.
Basket did an outstanding job, and now I expect and challenge you to do the same and carry on what Basket and his predecessors have done. You have a great Team here at Kadena and I am confident that you will continue to meet challenges head on, overcome difficult obstacles, and exceed expectations.
As we look to the future, the 18th Wing remains critically vital as the “Keystone of the Pacific.” From your strategic location here, you can respond to any major contingency that may occur anywhere in the Indo-Pacific theater.
To the Airmen of Kadena Air Base – I am proud of your contributions to enhancing regional security and stability and to strengthening the relationship with one of our nation’s most important allies.
General Cunningham’s successes over the past two years are a direct result of the outstanding leadership and dedication throughout your ranks. Thank you for what you do each and every day.
General Carey, the Airmen here will serve you proudly as they have in our nation’s past. Congratulations on your new command. I wish you the very best. Thank you. Domo Arigato.