Pentagon to swap nuclear boss, Europe commander and more
The summer season of military musical chairs is underway as several high-ranking Air Force officers take on new jobs or retire.
General Anthony Cotton, who manages the Air Force’s nuclear weapons and bombers as commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, was appointed on June 7 to lead the Pentagon’s nuclear enterprise at US Strategic Command.
Cotton is a career nuclear missile and oversaw the 20th Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missile force before becoming deputy commander of Global Strike in October 2019. He rose to the command’s top job in August as part of efforts aimed at modernizing the service’s nuclear arsenal and building a new stealth bomber. and plan the retirement of two others.
If confirmed by the Senate, he would become the second black service member to lead STRATCOM and the second person of color on the current roster of combatant commanders. He will replace Admiral Charles Richard, who took office in November 2019.
The Air Force has not announced who will replace Cotton at Global Strike next.
He is one of two recent choices to lead a combat command, which distributes responsibility for day-to-day operations in regions of the world as well as specialized missions like cyber warfare and space warfare.
The other, Army Lt. Gen. Bryan Fenton, has been tapped to lead U.S. Special Operations Command and for promotion to four-star general, the Pentagon announced Monday. He is now the head of the Joint Special Operations Command.
Some defense observers had speculated that Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, the three-star in charge of Air Force Special Operations Command, would take over as head of special operations after a previous stint as vice-commander of SOCOM. Instead, it looks like he’ll be hanging up his uniform after more than 32 years; the Air Force said SOCOM Vice Commander Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind is on deck to replace Slife.
Slife’s departure comes after criticism that the Air Force unfairly played favorites with an officer who could become the first female airman to enter the elite special tactics field. He denied any wrongdoing.
“I can’t wait to find out if I’m going to be a shepherd on my farm or if I’m going to change my job,” the special operations pilot told the Air Force Times in March when asked about his future plans.
Bauernfeind entered Air Force service in 1991 after graduating from the US Air Force Academy in Colorado. He flew the MC-130 Special Operations Airlift and commanded two Special Operations Wings. He has also held the position of No. 2 at SOCOM since August 2020.
And amid Europe’s most precarious security situation in decades, General Tod Wolters will retire as head of US European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander. Wolters was commissioned into the Air Force in 1982. Another fighter pilot who has held hopscotch positions around the world, he took over at EUCOM in May 2019.
His departure comes as Russia’s assault on Ukraine continues into its fourth month, spurring a massive effort to arm Ukrainian troops as well as new demands from countries to join NATO.
Gen. Christopher Cavoli, head of U.S. Army Europe and Africa, was named to replace Wolters.
Other resume updates include:
- Maj. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich will take over at Air Forces Central Command headquarters in South Carolina. The career fighter pilot has served as director of operations for US Central Command since June 2020.
- Lt. Gen. James Hecker is expected to leave Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, to assume command of U.S. Air Force Europe and Air Force Africa. He joined the university as president in November 2019.
- Lt. Gen. Brad Webb is retiring as Commander of Air Education and Training Command after 38 years of military service. He handed over the reins to Lt. Gen. Brian Robinson, a former Air Mobility Command No. 2 officer and career air transport pilot.
- Gen. Arnold Bunch retired Monday after three years as Air Force Materiel Command’s senior officer and nearly 40 years in the service. General Duke Richardson, the former military assistant for acquisition at Air Force Headquarters, took over the position.