18th Air Force Change of Command ceremony
Lt. Gen. Giovanni K. Tuck is no stranger to Scott Air Force Base.
For starters, he first served at Scott from 1994-96 with Air Mobility Command before additional tours from 2000-03 with U.S. Transportation Command and 2005-06 again with AMC. Most recently, he was the director of operations and plans for USTRANSCOM from May 2015-May 2017.
On Thursday, Tuck added to his impressive legacy at Scott, assuming command of the 18th Air Force from Lt. Gen. Sam Cox at a change of command ceremony at the Scott Event Center.
Lt. Gen. Giovanni K. Tuck takes command of the Air Force’s largest numbered Air Force and will oversee 39,000 active-duty, Reserve and civilian Airmen, and 1,100 aircraft.
“This is an absolute thrill of a lifetime,” Tuck said. “I’ve been on this base four times, stationed here four times ... the beautiful thing about this wonderful community is that it is supported by every leader and business person that lives here to make us feel at home. Coming back for a fourth time has been very special. Having been here several times — almost one-third of my career has been a Scott Air Force Base — has really prepared me to be the 18th Air Force commander.
“My charge is to take care of America’s sons and daughters, and I plan on doing that.”
Overall, Tuck takes command of the Air Force’s largest numbered Air Force and will oversee 39,000 active-duty, Reserve and civilian Airmen, and 1,100 aircraft. Tuck will also command Task Force 294, overseeing Air Force tanker operations supporting U.S. Strategic Command.
While addressing the crowd, Tuck cited comments Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein made when he took charge of Air Force. Tuck said Airmen can expect his very best and that he will “leave nothing on the table” while serving as commander. Tuck also said he hopes to take any challenges faced and turn those into opportunities for success.
“I am really, really grateful for this opportunity,” Tuck said. “Gratitude is the word that surrounds the moment, and I look forward to leading 39,000 Airmen. We’ve got great commanders, command chiefs ... our officer corps, our enlisted corps, is second to none. We can take equipment from all four corners of the globe and do magical things from our aeromedical evacuation perspective, our strategic airlift perspective and from our air refueling perspective. And I’m just grateful to be a part of the team.”
Tuck outlined three priorities.
“My priorities are really going to be focusing on speed, and that is basically speed to deliver; focusing on safety and making sure we have that culture resonating throughout 18th Air Force; and then successes, and those successes are measured by other people grading us, not us grading our own,” said Tuck, who will serve as the 10th commander of 18th Air Force since reactivation in 2003.
According to a press release issued by the 18th Air Force, Tuck is a command pilot with 4,800 flight hours across 11 aircraft. Some of those airframes include airlift platforms like the C-17 Globemaster, refuelers such as the KC-10 Extender and KC-135 Stratotanker, and even the B-1 Lancer bomber and UH-1 Iroquois helicopter.
Cox, meanwhile, retires after 33 years of service, having assumed command of the 18th Air Force in October 2015. Per the press release, Cox graduated from the Air Force Academy and later served as the commandant of cadets there. His more than three decades in the Air Force saw him command a squadron, wing and operational center, among other key duties.
At the ceremony, Cox offered his thanks, including to wife Tammy, while also noting Tuck has an “unbelievable” team to work with as 18th Air Force commander.
“Thanks to each and every one of you for being here,” Cox said.
Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, congratulated both Cox and Tuck at Thursday’s ceremony.
“It’s the perfect choice for the United States Air Force, and everyone knows it,” Hyten said. “I’m so glad I could be here to celebrate with you both. Sam, you have done a wonderful job. Congratulations to both of you.”
Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, commander, Air Mobility Command, also praised Cox and Tuck.
“Sam has served with distinction ... you’re not going to find a better, more humble, personable leader in our Air Force than Gen. Cox,” Everhart said. “And we all know he (Tuck), as Gen. Hyten said, is up to the challenge. He’s an exceptional leader. Welcome back to the AMC family, and now let’s get to work.”
According to the press release, the 18th Air Force is responsible for AMC’s worldwide operational mission of providing rapid, global mobility and sustainment for America’s armed forces through airlift, aerial refueling, aeromedical evacuation, and contingency response.
In addition, 18th Air Force manages the global air mobility enterprise through Scott AFB’s 618th Air and Space Operations Center and 13 additional wings or groups stationed around the country.
Garen Vartanian: 618-239-2660