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19th Air Force, key training unit, gets new commander

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Air Education and Training Command head Lt. Gen. Steve Kwast passed the guidon to Wills in a change-of-command ceremony. Wills now oversees the 19 training locations of the 19th Air Force, which include 11 active-duty wings, one Air Force Reserve unit, and five Air National Guard units.

Wills “has a history of being a great warrior,” Kwast said. “He is a dreamer, a visionary, a man who knows the priority of family first. You are going to see him take all of this great effort and take it to the next level.”

In his first remarks as commander of the 19th, Wills said it needs to innovate and find new ways to accomplish its mission.

“To preserve our republic and protect our citizens, we need to get the future faster,” Wills said. “The old ways of the past won’t work and the men and women of the 19th Air Force know this. History will also show that 19th Air Force will be equal to the moment and superior to the task. America is counting on us, so let’s get to work.”

Wills succeeds Maj. Gen. Patrick Doherty, who will next become director of plans, programs and requirements at Air Combat Command headquarters at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia.

The 19th Air Force oversees the training of more than 32,000 troops — not only from the U.S., but also allied militaries — in a variety of skill sets, including future pilots of manned and unmanned aircraft, air battle managers, weapons directors, and survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists. Members of the 19th also oversee airmanship programs at the Air Force Academy.

Wills is a command F-15 pilot with more than 2,500 flight hours. He received his commission in 1990 after finishing the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the University of Arizona.

He previously served as deputy chief of the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq, which sought to provide security cooperation and assistance to Iraq. Before that, he served as director of strategy, plans and programs at Pacific Air Forces headquarters, and commanded the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. From 1997 to 2002, Wills served as an F-15C instructor pilot at Langley and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.

As commander of the 19th, Wills will help oversee the Air Force’s development of its new advanced T-X training aircraft, which Boeing is projected to start delivering to Randolph in 2023. The T-X will replace the T-38C Talon as the Air Force’s next-generation fighter and bomber trainer, and bring 5th-generation capabilities to flight training.

He will also watch as the 19th continues to roll out T-6 trainer fixes and upgrades, designed to stop an alarming series of hypoxia and hypoxia-like breathing problems that repeatedly grounded the fleet.

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