Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II took the reins of the Air Mobility Command during a ceremony Tuesday at Scott’s parade grounds.
In a speech following the change-of-command ceremony, Everhart expressed his gratitude to the 118,000 AMC airmen who have carried out a wide range of complex missions over the past year — from bringing food and water to religious refugees trapped on Mount Sinjar in Iraq, to refueling war planes bringing the fight to the Islamic State, to providing medical supplies to victims of last year’s ebola epidemic in west Africa.
“This is still an uncertain time for our Air Force, and while we make it look easy, you all know it is anything but,” Everhart said.
Everhart warned that as America’s military redeploys from wars of the past decade, “We cannot afford to rest on our laurels,” he said. “Not in the slightest. Our adversaries are determined and they are dedicated to their cause more so than they ever have been. The demand for what Air Mobility brings to the fight will only grow in intensity.”
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Everhart, 54, assumed AMC’s command from Gen. Darren W. McDew, who has been confirmed as the next commander of the U.S. Transportation Command, which has headquarters at Scott.
The command that Everhart assumed the reins of has faced an extraordinary series of challenges as it tries to juggle the demands of its global mission while dealing with Congressionally imposed budget pressures that have led to the reduction of 8,000 airmen over the past two years. Meanwhile, because of humanitarian missions and the threat posed by the Islamic State, AMC has seen the number of sorties it flies from December to April increase by 25 percent, according to the Air Force Times.
Gen. Larry Spencer, the Air Force’s outgoing vice chief of staff, warned in an Air Force Times article last month that AMC’s deep troop cuts, coupled with the command’s rising operational tempo, is forcing AMC to make difficult choices.
“Our ops tempo is not going down one bit,” Spencer told the publication. “Yet there’s clamor to have the resources go down. So you’ve got the lines on the chart going in opposite directions.”
During a brief question-and-answer exchange with the media after Tuesday’s event, Everhart addressed Spencer’s concerns, saying that “I will tell you we will prioritize those missions for our nation’s needs based off the leadership of what we need to get accomplished and we’ll be right there to provide the best the world has to offer.”
Everhart had previously served as commander of the 18th Air Force, also headquartered at Scott.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III presided over Tuesday’s ceremony. Guests included Gov. Bruce Rauner, St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern and Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert.
Welsh lauded McDew’s tenure as AMC commander and his success in dealing with a series of crises, including the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the earthquake in Nepal and the military threat posed by religious militants fighting for the Islamic State.
“I could not be prouder of the way you led this command,” Welsh said to McDew.
Welsh presented McDew the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster for “exceptionally meritorious service” for his respective tenures as commander of AMC and, before that, the 18th Air Force from August 2012 to Aug 2012.
During his tenure as AMC commander, McDew helped oversee a number of important Air Force projects, capped by the development of the K-46 Pegasus air tanker, the $200 billion next-generation air refueling aircraft that will replace the Air Force’s current fleet of air tankers, most of which are more than 50 years old.
During his speech, McDew reminded the airmen in the audience that they have been asked to make sacrifices.
“Sacrifices that benefit your neighbor,” McDew said. “Sacrifices that benefit your children and future generations. Each time you face challenges you willingly risked your todays for their tomorrows.”
AMC is an Air Force major command that provides worldwide cargo and passenger delivery, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation.
Gen. Paul Selva, the previous Transcom commander, has been confirmed as the new vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A change-of-command ceremony to mark the start of McDew’s tenure as Transcom commander has yet to be scheduled.
Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at email@example.com or 618-239-2533.