Air National Guard No. 2 Nominated to Become New Director

President Joe Biden has nominated Maj. Gen. Duke A. Pirak to pin on a third star and become the next director of the Air National Guard, the Pentagon announced March 18. If confirmed by the Senate, Pirak will replace the current head of the ANG, Lt. Gen. Michael A. Loh, who is set to retire in the coming months as he nears the end of his four-year tenure.

Pirak already serves as Loh’s No. 2 as the deputy director of the Air National Guard, a job he has held since February 2022.

He is poised to take charge of the Air National Guard as it has gained prominence in recent months, from taking on the high-profile mission to train Ukrainian pilots to the fallout from a major leak of classified information from an Airman at a Massachusetts Air National Guard intelligence unit. The ANG also makes up roughly one-fourth of the Air Force’s aircraft fleet and comprises over 100,000 Airmen.

Pirak’s nomination was sent to the Senate on March 14 and referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Since 2018, Pirak has spent most of his time working at the Pentagon. When Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel was Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Pirak served for a year as director of the Chief’s Action Group from 2018-2019. Before becoming deputy director of the ANG, he was deputy director for political-military affairs for Africa on the Joint Staff from 2021-2022. In between those roles, Pirak had a two-year assignment as deputy director of strategy, plans, and policy at U.S. Central Command from 2019-2021.

Pirak, who has more than 2,700 flight hours, has also commanded at the squadron, group, and wing levels, including a stint as the head of the Oregon Air National Guard’s 142nd Wing in Portland, an F-15C/D unit.

While Pirak spent most of his career flying the F-15C/D, he is poised to lead the ANG through a pivotal transition as it retires its Eagles and older F-16s in favor of new F-35s and F-15EXs.

“The Air Force is facing a fighter recapitalization crisis and it’s very acute in the Air National Guard where traditionally we have the majority of the legacy fighters,” Pirak said at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference in September 2023.

The Guard is also home to around half of the service’s nearly 500 tankers, which are also going through a transition as KC-135s from the 1950s-60s are being replaced by KC-46s. Meanwhile, the ANG is seeing some of its missions transform, such as Maryland’s A-10 unit that will transition to a cyberspace wing.

Navigating the Air Force’s plans for modernization is set to be one of Pirak’s toughest jobs, an issue he is already heavily involved with in his current role. The lingering question over what to do with the space mission in the ANG will also likely be a major focus during Pirak’s tenure.

“If you stand down a Guard unit that’s been at this business for a while, with all the experience and capability, unlike the active duty Air Force, it’s very difficult to build that back up,” Pirak said in 2023. “We have this discussion not at the expense of anybody else, but we want that rising tide to lift everybody.”