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General Hawkins assumes command of 18th Air Force

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SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (USTCNS) --- Maj. Gen. James A. Hawkins assumed command of 18th Air Force from Lt. Gen. William Welser III during a ceremony here Nov. 29.

As commander of 18th Air Force, General Hawkins is responsible for tasking and executing all air mobility missions. The 18th AF consists of 12 wings, 3 groups, 2 Expeditionary Mobility Task Forces, and the Tanker Airlift Control Center.

Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, AMC commander, said during the ceremony that as AMC thanks one commander (the outgoing 18th AF commander, Lt. Gen. William Welser III) for the legacy he leaves behind, the command is also looking to General Hawkins, who he described as "the perfect person" to assume command of the warfighting numbered air force.

"18th Air Force is working at an unprecedented pace to keep people and cargo moving throughout the world," said General McNabb. "But everybody still wants it faster. We're doing it so well now, that people don't realize the extraordinary work that is done every day to make the mission happen."

From contingency operations in support of the War on Terrorism to hurricane relief efforts in the Southern United States, the tsunami in Southeast Asia, and the earthquake in Pakistan, he said the whole world depends on 18th Air Force.

"As the operational arm of AMC, [18th Air Force] is in fact one of the crown jewels of our nation's defense. There's no question, everybody depends on this command," General McNabb said. "As the [Air Force chief of staff] said, 18th Air Force is the gold standard."

The general said since Sept. 11, 2001, AMC has flown 55,000 missions and 1.3 million flying hours, has moved 3.2 million passengers and 1.5 million short tons of cargo, and refueling aircraft have offloaded 1.2 billion pounds of fuel. "To put it in perspective," he said, "it's like moving the entire city of Chicago all the way to the AOR and back."

General McNabb said General Hawkins is the ideal choice to continue the legacy and take 18th AF to the next level.

Formerly the AMC director of operations, General Hawkins is no stranger to AMC's warfighting numbered air force. The general was the 18th Air Force vice commander from January to December 2004 before he commanded the Tanker Airlift Control Center from December 2004 to May 2005. Since May, General Hawkins has been AMC's director of operations.

During the ceremony, General Hawkins discussed the road ahead. He told the men and women of 18th AF that he is proud to serve with them, and he reminded them that they still have a lot of work to do.

"We are in the fifth year of the Global War on Terrorism," he said. "This is a tough war. This is a war of good pitted against evil; a war of darkness pitted against light; a war of despair pitted against hope; and it's also a war of oppression pitted against liberty. This is not a war for the faint of heart.

"It's time to dust ourselves off, it's time to re-form the line, and it's time to plug the gaps," he said. "There's a lot of work to be done. We must ensure this enemy never gets the upper hand."

General Hawkins received his commission from the U.S. Military Academy in 1973. He began his career as a B-52H pilot for the 5th Bombardment Wing, and aide-de-camp, 57th Air Division, at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.

He is a command pilot with more than 4,600 hours in a variety of aircraft, including the T-37, T-38, KC-135A/Q/R, B-52G/H, VC-137, C-32, C-37, C-21, C-20, C-9 and UH-1. The general was also selected to pilot the first flight test of a global positioning system-equipped B-52G over the North Pole in 1985. And in August 1994, he served as an instructor pilot on Global Power 94-7, a 47-hour, non-stop, around-the-world B-52 flight - the longest bombing mission ever flown.

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