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Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson Is New Boss at Air Force Global Strike Command

Previous AFGSC Commander Lt. Gen. James Kowalski becomes deputy at STRATCOM

Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson took charge of Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) and pinned on his third star Oct. 23, 2013.

The change of command didn’t come at the best time. On Wilson’s first day on the job, the Associated Press reported that several Air Force officers entrusted with the launch keys to intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were caught twice this year leaving open blast doors intended to help prevent intruders from entering their underground launch stations. Two launch crew commanders and two deputy commanders were given administrative punishment.

Wilson’s predecessor as AFGSC commander, Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, was assigned to new duties as the deputy at STRATCOM in Omaha, Neb., replacing Vice Adm. Tim Giardina, the officer who was relieved of duty Oct. 9 amid a military investigation of allegations he used counterfeit chips to gamble at an Iowa casino. Kowalski had a key role in organizing and shaping AFGSC and was its second commander, while Wilson is its third.

Just 12 days earlier, Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, commander of 20th Air Force, was fired following a probe into alleged misbehavior. In a separate incident, the deputy at U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) was relieved of his duties.

AFGSC was created in 2009 precisely for the purpose of ending missteps by those responsible for nuclear weapons. The previous year, when Defense Secretary Robert Gates sacked Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael “Buzz” Moseley because of a series of incidents in which nuclear components were mishandled, the stage was set for AFGSC to come into existence and to inherit the traditions and heraldry of the Strategic Air Command of 1946-1992.

AFGSC’s arsenal consists of 75 B-52 Stratofortress and 20 B-2 Spirit bombers, and 450 LGM-30G Minuteman II ICBMs. The bombers and missiles make up two-thirds of the nation’s strategic nuclear “triad,” which also includes the Navy‘s submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Wilson’s predecessor as AFGSC commander, Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, was assigned to new duties as the deputy at STRATCOM in Omaha, Neb., replacing Vice Adm. Tim Giardina, the officer who was relieved of duty Oct. 9 amid a military investigation of allegations he used counterfeit chips to gamble at an Iowa casino. Kowalski had a key role in organizing and shaping AFGSC and was its second commander, while Wilson is its third.

The shift from Kowalski to Wilson at AFGSC violates an unwritten rule that the job was to rotate between a pilot and a missileer. Kowalski and Wilson are both command pilots. Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, the AFGSC boss prior to Kowalski, was a missile operator.

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Robert F. Dorr is an author, U.S. Air Force veteran, and retired American diplomat who...