SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (Oct. 15, 2021) -- U.S. Air Force Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost took command of U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) in a ceremony here today, becoming the first female officer to lead the global combatant command.
Van Ovost succeeds Gen. Stephen R. Lyons, the first Army officer to lead USTRANSCOM. Lyons retired today after 38 years of military service.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III presided over the ceremony. He said Lyons is a tough act to follow, but Van Ovost is exactly the right person for the job, describing her as a legend of a leader.
“She’s led at nearly every level of command, most recently at the helm of Air Mobility Command, where she played a key role by supplying planes and personnel for the Afghan airlift,” Austin said. “At the height of the NEO [Noncombatant Evacuation Operation], an aircraft was taking off from Kabul airport every 45 minutes. This kind of real-world combat achievement underscores something crucial. General Van Ovost, in the 21st century, careers like yours are a fighting imperative.”
In addition to recent operations in Afghanistan, Austin highlighted the strategic advantages USTRANSCOM provides to the nation and its ability to align mobility resources to the highest strategic priorities of the Department of Defense (DOD).
He said that on any given day, 115 railcars are moving DOD equipment, 33 ships are getting underway, 1,500 trucks are delivering cargo and every two minutes planes are hauling supplies, refueling aircraft, and moving patients.
Austin said those are just ordinary operations, but also that the past year for USTRANSCOM was anything but ordinary.
USTRANSCOM led the nation through the global pandemic with mitigation efforts, delivery of supplies and vaccines, and by sponsoring critical particle airflow and testing studies onboard commercial aircraft, which established industry-wide safety standards for passengers. Lyons was also directed to activate the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) for just the third time and used CRAF for the first time to transport civilians.
“You had to keep the American military moving during a historic pandemic; and you delivered. You had to execute a complex retrograde in Somalia; and you delivered. You had to conduct the largest noncombatant evacuation airlift in American history in Afghanistan; and you delivered,” he said. “You conducted the largest NEO airlift in American history – in just 17 days.”
Austin said USTRANSCOM soared over the normal high expectations for the command under Lyons’ leadership and forged “a global transportation network that is stronger and faster than ever, and even more secure, hardened, and sustainable.”
As commander, Lyons focused on five priorities to champion transportation and logistical issues: Sealift recapitalization, air refueling capacity, cyber resiliency, digital modernization and the program responsible for moving DOD personnel, their families and their personal property.
Lyons also advocated for partnerships with industry to develop an innovative space transportation prototype to deliver cargo to any place on the globe within an hour.
“When people ask me ‘How does TRANSCOM do it? What is the secret to success?’ I tell them the truth. We are blessed with incredible people from around the globe,” Lyons said. “To the men and women of TRANSCOM, it has been my greatest honor to serve as your 13th commander.”
Lyons said he knows the command will welcome Van Ovost with open arms and that she is eminently qualified to lead an enterprise of more than 116 thousand logistics and transportation professionals to meet a rapidly changing global security environment.
After taking command, Van Ovost said USTRANSCOM will remain committed to providing military leaders a mobility enterprise ready to deliver the immediate force tonight, and to be the decisive force when needed.
“I assure you USTRANSCOM will defend our nation through rapid power projection and sustainment, while continuing to build a unity of effort through the strong bonds of our industry partners and our allies and partners,” Van Ovost said. “We will also remain committed to our most critical asset – our people.”
Van Ovost expressed her appreciation for the leaders who chose her to serve and thanked Lyons for his leadership and service.
“We are all grateful to have been under your command and to have taken part in your legacy,” she said. “It is an honor of a lifetime to be selected to lead the United States Transportation Command as we prepare to meet the challenges of tomorrow, today. Together, we will deliver.”
USTRANSCOM exists as a warfighting combatant command to project and sustain military power at a time and place of the nation’s choosing. Powered by dedicated men and women, TRANSCOM underwrites the lethality of the Joint Force, advances American interests around the globe, and provides our nation's leaders with strategic flexibility to select from multiple options, while creating multiple dilemmas for our adversaries.