SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE — The 18th Air Force -- the Air Mobility Command's workhorse -- is awaiting orders from the White House concerning the military crisis in Iraq, according to Lt. Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, the 18th Air Force's newly appointed commander.
"What we're doing right now, we're waiting for the tasks that need to come down from our commander-in-chief, so we can answer that call," said Everhart, 53, just after he assumed command of the 18th Air Force in a ceremony Friday morning at Hangar 1.
"As soon as we get those tasks, as soon as they give us complete directions on where we need to go, we will be there to answer that call," he said.
The 18th Air Force oversees 37,000 airmen across the globe. The previous commander, Gen. Darren McDew, assumed command of AMC, based at Scott, in May. McDew presided over Friday's ceremony.
Everhart's last job was commander of the 3rd Air Force and 17th Expeditionary Air Force, headquartered in Ramstein, Germany.
On Thursday, President Barack Obama ordered 300 U.S. advisers, including special operations personnel, to Iraq to gather intelligence and help the Iraq army fight off Islamic militants who threaten the capital of Baghdad.
It's not yet clear how many, or if any, of those advisers will come from Scott.
Everhart applauded the professionalism and dedication of 18th Air Force airmen, who successfully executed a series of high-profile missions last December, including flying humanitarian aid to Syria and Pakistan and setting up a temporary air base in Romania to serve as a hub for returning troops from Afghanistan.
With no fanfare, the 18th Air Force successfully supported President Obama's trip to South Africa in December for Nelson Mandela's funeral, despite little advance notice.
"You moved thousands of tons of equipment halfway around the globe in only 60 hours," Everhart said. "It was a remarkably complex mission that got done remarkably well."
Everhart also noted the skillful manner in which an 18th Air Force C-17 air cargo plane evacuated U.S. soldiers wounded in the South Sudan in December.
"You know the sign of success," Everhart said in the heavy drawl reminiscent of his childhood growing up in the mountains of southern Virginia, "is when you hear nothing at all from Washington, D.C. Nothing. That is the proof and true testament of how well you get things done."
Earlier in the ceremony, McDew praised Everhart's abilities to lead his teams to success.
"But charisma is not enough to get you by in this job," McDew said. "He also has excelled throughout his career because he knows this business. ... I can't express how important his understanding is to our future success. ... In a sense, you're all victims of your success. When your nation calls, you answer."
Everhart is returning to Scott Air Force Base after a two-year hiatus as the 3rd Air Force commander in Germany.
During his last posting at Scott, Everhart had served as commander of the 618th Air Operations Center and Tanker Airlift Control Center.
During the drive to Scott with his family, Everhart felt a comforting sense of familiarity.
"We knew where that is, we knew where that is," he said. "The (Veterans/Musial) bridge is complete. It's like coming home."