Military News

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

9th AF welcomes new commander

by Capt. Tristan Hinderliter
9th Air Force Public Affairs


8/3/2015 - SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C.  -- Ninth Air Force welcomed a new commander here, as Maj. Gen. Mark Kelly assumed command from Maj. Gen. H. D. Polumbo Jr. in a ceremony officiated by Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, on July 31.

Ninth Air Force, headquartered at Shaw Air Force Base, is a Numbered Air Force under ACC comprised of eight active duty wings and three direct reporting units primarily in the Southeastern U.S. with more than 400 aircraft and 29,000 personnel assigned. Several of the command's aircraft, which include the A-10, F-16, F-15E and F-22 fighter jets, an HH-60 helicopter and a HC-130J aircraft, were on display outside the ceremony.

Kelly, a 1986 graduate of Southwest Texas State University and a fighter pilot, comes to 9th Air Force from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, where he commanded the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing. Earlier in his career, he commanded a fighter squadron and two fighter wings. He is accompanied by his wife, Tanya.

"It goes without saying that Tanya and I are excited to be here," Kelly told the audience at the ceremony. "Part of our Airman's Creed talks about our nation's sword and shield. Here at 9th Air Force, that's talking about you."

Kelly thanked the many civic leaders in attendance, including the mayors of Sumter, S.C. and Goldsboro, N.C., for their support for the Air Force.

"Thanks for loving our Airmen enough to hold them to a high standard," Kelly said.  "Thanks for putting a community arm around them and their families so they're ready to succeed in challenging environments.

"In the coming months I look forward to thanking each community, each wing and each Airman eye-to-eye in person, and I look forward to continuing a well-established culture of 9th Air Force excellence."

Polumbo, who is retiring after a 34-year career, said it had been an honor to serve as 9th Air Force commander, a position he held since May 2013. 

"I know 9th Air Force is ready, and will stay ready under the leadership of General Mark 'Grace' Kelly," Polumbo said. "I truly enjoyed being part of everyone's lives." 

Before he relinquished command, Polumbo was presented a Distinguished Service Medal by Carlisle for "exceptionally meritorious service in duties of great responsibility."

"Jake, you have had an incredible career in service to our nation," said Carlisle, using Polumbo's call sign. "Every American owes you a debt of gratitude. Thank you for your service, your friendship, and for being an incredible Airman - congratulations."

Carlisle also offered praise for Kelly.   

"Somehow, every time an incredible, world-class, top-of-the-heap commander steps away, we are blessed and fortunate enough to have a world-class, top-of-the-heap commander step in," Carlisle said.  "That is no different today.

"Grace, you have big shoes to fill, but I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that you will do it and continue what Jake started and make this command even better."

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