General Selva assumes command of Air Force's newest air operations center
General Selva, formerly TACC's vice commander, assumed command from Maj. Gen. Edward L. LaFountaine. General LaFountaine, who has led TACC since May 2002, is departing for reassignment to Headquarters U.S. European Command, Germany, as the director of Logistics and Security Assistance, J-4.
Gen. John W. Handy, commander, U.S. Transportation Command, and commander, Air Mobility Command, officiated the ceremony.
General Handy thanked General LaFountaine for commanding TACC during what he called "one of the toughest times" in the history of AMC and TACC.
"Last year we saw some of the greatest struggles this command has ever entertained, and it has all been achieved with the heartbeat, the nerve center, of our command, the folks in the Tanker Airlift Control Center," General Handy said. "The success of this command is wrapped entirely in the hands of people who man the TACC."
General Handy said General LaFountaine has been a "stalwart representative of everything the Air Force looks for in its senior officers: strength, integrity, dedication and professionalism. He absolutely threw his entire body, life, mind and soul at the challenges of this command."
General LaFountaine said those challenges started the first day he assumed command of TACC.
"When I stood here last May, General Handy challenged me to continue that level of excellence that prior commanders had indeed established," said General LaFountaine. "And with that, to make the organization even better. To take TACC to new levels of performance ... to raise the bar. You can only do that with professionals -- people with creativity, people with drive, people with passion. Even as we speak, the watch goes on. The consoles are manned. We continue to control airlift and air refueling around the world."
During the change of command ceremony, General LaFountaine reflected on what TACC and AMC have accomplished during the past year.
"In the past 13 months, our war against terrorism has been truly magnificent," he said. "We have been engaged in winning two wars. When you take a look at what this command has accomplished, that is indeed the legacy we've built."
But he said fighting two wars isn't TACC's only legacy.
"We've moved numerous [Air Expeditionary Forces] on times and rates that have been absolutely staggering," added the general. "We moved the president, we fought forest fires, we supported NASA in their recovery efforts for the shuttle disaster, we've gone into areas for humanitarian support, we've done [Noncombatant Evacuation Operations], and on, and on, and on.
"Last but not least, we've supported the warfighters from around the world. We've provided support for airmen, Marines and soldiers, and for our fallen comrades as we brought them back to the United States, back to their families. There's no greater thing we can do than return those fallen warriors in a very dignified and very special way to a grateful nation."
General LaFountaine said during the past 13 months, TACC has helped AMC move 757,000 tons of cargo and a million passengers, and has supported more than 22,000 missions.
"We've surpassed Desert Shield and Desert Storm totals now," he said. "When looking at the legacy we have built in this command -- with Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Nobel Eagle -- we have now moved into that number two spot, second only to the Berlin Airlift. It is a standard of excellence that every one of you can be proud of.
"It's been a hectic year," added General LaFountaine. "To the men and women of TACC, we've gone to war together and I couldn't be prouder. You have served with distinction. You have set a new standard for this command and a new standard for air operations centers around the Air Force."
TACC may be losing a great commander, but they are gaining a great commander in General Selva, said General Handy.
"It's exciting when an organization has a change in leadership," General Handy said. "It ought to be even more exciting this time, because we're able to move someone into command who has been here with the organization."
The AMC commander also talked about the challenges of leadership within TACC.
"As Air Force leaders, we are challenged to look at the individuals within our command and ask ourselves how much responsibility can we place on their shoulders; how far can we push these individuals and teams," General Handy said. "In this case, throughout the entirety of two wars - especially the Iraq campaign - I looked toward General LaFountaine and his steadfast, constant passion for taking care of the TACC. He has not missed a beat."
General Handy said he sees the same greatness in TACC's newest commander, General Selva, and expects he will face similar challenges in the coming year.
General Selva agreed that TACC would remain busy. He said the TACC is not done yet and there is a long road ahead, but he looks forward to working with the professionals who man the TACC.
"When I was a kid, the first time I saw a magician pull a rabbit from his hat, I was incredibly impressed. Had he been a little more talented, he would have had more tricks. But his next trick was to pull a rabbit from his hat. It still amazed me that he could do that, but it was a little less entertaining and slightly less interesting," General Selva said. "To this day, I still don't know how he did it, I just know that he could do it."
General Selva compared the people in TACC to that magician.
"You are all magicians," he said. "You pull off the same trick over and over again, and all of our customers have become used to it. You should take great pride in this, because their fundamental assumption is that you know this business better than anyone else. And they're right."
In closing, General Selva reflected on a quote by American Essayist and Poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson: ""What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us."
"Today, what lies within me is an intense pride in what TACC does each and every day," General Selva said. "That you can provide global command and control and seamless execution of our mission every day, is absolutely amazing."