Air Force Elevates USAFA Vice Superintendent to General Officer Role

Maj. Gen. Thomas P. Sherman has been named vice superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy and will step in as interim superintendent until Lt. Gen. Tony D. Bauernfeind is confirmed by the Senate, the school announced May 29. 

Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark, who has served as USAFA superintendent since September 2020, will retire on June 1 after presiding over the Academy’s graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colo. 

“It was the greatest honor of my career to serve you at our Academy,” Clark told the graduates, the first class under his tenure, a day before his retirement ceremony on May 31. “Thank you for being my class.” 

Clark, a former USAFA football player, is slated to become the executive director of the College Football Playoff, and Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall included a nod to his playing days while thanking him at the graduation ceremony. 

“Rich had an incredibly difficult job from day one,” Kendall said. “And he met every challenge head on, just as I expect from a former U.S. Air Force Academy linebacker.” 

Under Clark, the Academy had to deal with remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, a cheating scandal that resulted in 22 cadets being separated, the deaths of multiple cadets, and more. The Academy also expanded its Space Force connections, including the launch of a new student-built and -operated satellite.

Bauernfeind, the head of Air Force Special Operations Command, was nominated to succeed Clark on May 14, and his nomination is currently pending before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Depending on how long his confirmation process takes, Sherman could still be the interim superintendent by the time the Class of 2028 arrives on June 26. 

Sherman is the first general officer to serve as vice superintendent of the Academy—the position was previously held by colonels. 

“Elevating this position will help us solidify the cadet culture and experience required to develop officers ready to lead in an era of Great Power Competition,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David W. Allvin said in a statement. “This adjustment is not a reflection in any way of the excellent performance of previous vice superintendents. Instead, it showcases our commitment to prioritizing leadership development across our force.” 

Sherman comes to the vice job after a stint as director of security forces at Headquarters Air Force. A career security forces officer, Sherman graduated from USAFA in 1995 with a degree in political science and went on to earn three master’s degrees in criminal justice, National Security Affairs, and National Security Strategy, from California State University San Bernardino, the Naval Post Graduate School, and the National War College, respectively. 

He has also commanded at the flight, squadron, group, detachment, and wing levels, most notably leading the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. After that, he served as principal military assistant to the deputy secretary of defense, and as deputy director of capability development at Air Force Futures. 

“It is a true honor and a dream to be assigned and serve our Academy as its vice superintendent,” Sherman said in a statement. “I am tremendously excited and humbled to join a team so deeply devoted to the important mission of this premier military and academic institution. I look forward to working side-by-side with our dedicated professionals to further the environment and climate that develops, fosters and inspires today’s cadets to become tomorrow’s leaders of our Airmen and Guardians.” 

Sherman is the first interim superintendent of the Academy since 2003.