RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Peering out onto the sunlit flight line from the podium inside the open hangar, Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson found himself on familiar ground Wednesday.
“This is full circle for me,” Roberson said in his first remarks as the new 3rd Air Force commander, “My very first assignment with the United States Air Force was right here, to Ramstein, as a young lieutenant flying the F-4 right out there.”
The Phantoms have long since departed Ramstein. And while the Cold War, a part of Roberson’s early Air Force days, has long since thawed, these are busy times for airmen in Europe and Africa, said Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa. As Roberson’s new boss, Gorenc presided over Roberson’s assumption of command ceremony.
“The Air Force has yet another outstanding leader in its bullpen,” Gorenc said.
Roberson, recently awarded a third star, was nominated in April to lead 3rd Air Force, a process set in motion when Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin stepped down from the job at the end of January. Franklin retired in a storm of controversy generated by his decision to overturn a military jury’s sexual assault conviction of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson.
The command’s vice commander, Maj. Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, filled the gap until Roberson arrived, Air Force officials said. Everhart, also selected for promotion to lieutenant general, will be the 18th Air Force commander at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
Roberson thanked Everhart for “holding down the fort for the last four months,” the tail end of what’s been a busy two years for 3rd Air Force, according to Gorenc.
From supporting French operations in Mali to, most recently, deploying assets to eastern Europe amid rising Ukraine-Russia tensions, the airmen of 3rd Air Force have “performed brilliantly,” Gorenc said.
“Your response to the Ukrainian crisis enabled numerous forces to be deployed for essentially a no-notice” tasking to Poland “to deter potential adversaries and to reinforce our commitment to NATO,” he told the command’s airmen at the ceremony.
The 3rd Air Force directs air operations for USAFE-AFAFRICA from its headquarters at Ramstein.
As leader of the command, Roberson said his focus will be on readiness.
“With sequestration and continued reductions in manpower and funding, we’re going to work hard to stay on top of this,” he said.
Besides his first lieutenant days at Ramstein, Roberson had two other Germany assignments, both at Spangdahlem Air Base, where he was the 52nd Fighter Wing commander. A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Roberson is a command pilot with more than 5,000 flying hours, including 865 combat hours, according to his Air Force biography. He’s flown the F-15E/G, F-16C/CJ and the F-22, as well as the F-4. He’s also served in a variety of jobs for the Air Force, from Thunderbird air demonstration pilot to a congressional fellow on Capitol Hill. His last assignment was as the vice director on the Joint Staff in Washington, D.C.
“I am so happy to be here,” Roberson said.