Gen. Mike Minihan assumed command of Air Mobility Command from Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost, who will soon take the reins of U.S. Transportation Command, during a ceremony Oct. 5 at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.
Minihan, who last served as deputy commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, pinned on his fourth star hours earlier.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., who presided over the ceremony, said Minihan now leads about 110,000 Total Force Airmen and oversees a fleet of nearly 1,100 aircraft at a time when modern warfare is changing.
“There will be a contest among connected operational systems, not simply individual units or platforms,” and “uncontested freedom of movement, provided by our mobility Airmen and enjoyed by the Joint Force, will be challenged by our strategic competitors,” noted Brown.
Flanked by a C-32 in Air Force 2 markings and a KC-135 tanker, Brown praised Van Ovost, who has led the command since August 2020. Under her leadership, Brown said AMC Airmen flew 12,000 combat airlift sorties and 7,000 combat air refueling sorties, offloaded more than 33 million pounds of fuel to more than 600 bomber task force missions, flew nearly 700 Presidential and senior leader airlift missions, and delivered hundreds of aeromedical patients and millions of COVID-19 vaccines and critical supplies across the globe.
During the ceremony, Van Ovost received the Distinguished Service Medal with her first Oak Leaf Cluster for distinguishing herself while in command.
According to the citation, which was read during the ceremony, Van Ovost “fundamentally redefined rapid global mobility culture, invigorating competition, innovation, experimentation, and data-to-decision focus across the command; accelerating national defense strategy implementation; and energizing the Mobility Air Forces,” or MAF, “as the indispensable maneuver force for the Joint Force.”
She also helped negotiate incremental capability releases for the KC-46 Pegasus, helping to bring the Air Force’s newest weapon system online faster and easing the burden on the service’s legacy tankers.
Also under her leadership, “Air Mobility Command shouldered the nation’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, flying over 2,000 missions, delivering over 66 million pounds of cargo, and closing six forward operating bases; and subsequently executed the largest noncombatant evacuation operation in United States history, facilitating the evacuation of over 124,000 American citizens and Afghan partners in 18 days,” according to the citation.
Brown told Van Ovost, “What you’ve accomplished as the AMC commander this last year is simply astonishing.”
But in an emotional speech, she credited all the success to AMC Airmen and leaders.
“To all Wing commanders, senior enlisted leaders, and the many other commanders across AMC, saying thank you is not enough,” Van Ovost said. “Implementing our vision relied on shifting culture. And I witnessed our Airmen embracing this culture shift, which began with your leadership.”
Brown also expressed his support for Minihan, whom he worked with both in Korea and the Pacific. He noted that Minihan played a “vital role” in negotiations with North Korea that led to the repatriation of 55 United Nations Command service members.
“I couldn’t imagine anyone more perfect to lead AMC,” Brown said. “Warfare is changing, and our MAF needs your leadership to stay at the forefront … Mini, it’s up to you and your leadership and this team to continue to accelerate change, so the only thing impossible is losing.”
Minihan also credited AMC Airmen for an incredible year and promised to be just as ready for the future fight.
“When they said, ‘There is no way, too many people, too far, only one runway,’ you said, ‘Just watch us.’ When they said, ‘That many people can’t fit on a C-17,’ you said, ‘Just watch us,’” Minihan said. “And with the next fight brewing, this team will be ready. Just watch us.”