First Air Force changes command; receives first three-star commander
By Angela Pope, AFNORTH Public Affairs
/ Published September 01, 2011
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- In a historic ceremony here Aug. 31, the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region - 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern) changed command and received its first-ever 3-star commander, marking the first time a lieutenant general has filled a command billet at Tyndall.
During the ceremony officiated by Gen. Charles H. Jacoby, commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, Lt. Gen. Sid Clarke assumed command from Maj. Gen. Garry C. Dean, who is transferring to Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy, where he will serve as the deputy chief of staff for operations.
"The men who are passing the flags this morning represent the finest the nation has to offer," Jacoby said. "General Dean has led CONR-AFNORTH through many challenges, and has moved the pieces around the chessboard in a magnificent fashion. General Clarke is well-qualified to wear the many hats of CONR-AFNORTH. He is the perfect man for this job."
After passing the flags of CONR and 1st AF to Clarke, Dean received a Distinguished Service Medal, then took the opportunity to thank everyone who helped make his tenure as commander a success.
"All the wonderful things you heard mentioned here today about this command didn't happen because of me - it was the Airmen, the Total Force team that made it happen," Dean said. "It's exciting to defend America, and it's a team sport. General Clarke, you're going to love this community. There are some wonderful Americans here supporting us. We have fulfilled the dreams of those who came before us, and now we're creating dreams for those to come."
Clarke comes from the U.S. European Command in Ankara, Turkey, where he was the senior defense official and defense attaché for the Office of Defense Cooperation Turkey. This is Clarke's first assignment at Tyndall.
"I cannot tell you how excited I was when I got the call from Gen. Norman Schwartz (Air Force chief of staff) asking me if I wanted the job," Clarke said. "I thought it was one of my friends playing a joke. I'm glad I didn't hang up! Taking this billet is a great responsibility but also a privilege. Defense of our homeland is a sacred trust."
Immediately before the change of command ceremony, Clarke received his third star in a promotion ceremony at the Horizons Community Center here.
"My first trip to Panama City was 35 years ago on a high school trip," he said. "I had no idea then that I'd be standing here one day receiving my third star."
Clarke's newest star was pinned on by his wife Rebecca and Gen. William M. Fraser III, Air Combat Command commander.
"General Clarke is a great American, an Airman's Airman," Fraser said. "The jobs he's had, the things he's done have prepared him to step up to this next level in his career."
Based on the scope of responsibility that falls to the 1st Air Force commander, senior Air Force officials decided the command position needed to be upgraded and filled by a lieutenant general. First Air Force is made up of four direct reporting units, 10 aligned Air National Guard units and a large number of active aerospace control alert sites - including aircraft, air defense artillery and up to 15,000 active duty, National Guard, Air Force Reserve and civilian personnel.
As the Joint Force Air Component Commander for NORAD and USNORTHCOM, the 1st Air Force commander is directly responsible for developing contingency plans and conducting full-spectrum U.S. Air Force air and space operations in CONUS, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as over the maritime approaches to the United States. The organization is also responsible for providing Defense Support of Civil Authorities as the air component to USNORTHCOM. Additionally, the 601st Air & Space Operations Center falls under the 1st Air Force commander's direction, which plans, directs and assesses air and space operations for NORAD and USNORTHCOM.
First Air Force had a 3-star commander briefly in 1946. The general was only in command for three months, and the organization was not yet the designated Component Numbered Air Force it is today.