3rd Air Force bids farewell to one commander, welcomes another

Maj. Gen. John Wood shakes the hand of former 3rd Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark after taking command of the 3rd Air Force during a ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Friday, Sept. 7, 2018.


By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 7, 2018

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – Maj. Gen. John Wood assumed command on Friday of 3rd Air Force, where he’ll direct U.S. air operations in Europe and Africa.

“Impossibly large shoes to fill, General Clark,” Wood said at his change-of-command ceremony, praising his predecessor, Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark.

Clark stepped into the job nearly two years ago as a three-star general. But the position has been re-designated as a two-star position, while the U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa deputy commander slot is now a three-star position, service officials said.

Clark, a B-1 bomber pilot, will become the deputy chief of staff of strategic deterrence and nuclear integration at U.S. Air Force headquarters. Before landing at the Pentagon, however, he’ll temporarily serve as a special assistant to USAFE–AFAFRICA commander Gen. Tod D. Wolters.

Clark said he was grateful for the opportunity to serve as 3rd Air Force commander, noting he was only the second bomber pilot to be in the job.

Of his wing commanders and command chiefs, Clark said: “I got to witness and watch you do things that I never imagined that our Air Force did.”

Wolters said Clark improved the U.S. Air Force’s relationship with the Israeli air force, to where it’s now “the best our nation has ever witnessed.”

Clark’s most daunting task was building readiness and trust between the U.S. and its allies and partners in the region, Wolters said.

“I will miss you my friend; I will love you for a lifetime,” Wolters said, “and I think every single one of the warriors that served under your command will say the same.”

Wood comes to Ramstein from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., where he was the director of strategic plans, requirements and programs at Headquarters Air Mobility Command.

Although it’s Wood’s first geographic assignment in Europe, he did work with Europe, NATO and Russia in a political and military affairs role at the Pentagon from 2015 to 2017.

Wood has accrued more than 4,000 flying hours, primarily in the T-38, C-130, KC-10 and C-17.

Wolters said he’s witnessed firsthand Wood’s composure under pressure.

“In situations where tempers flare and tensions heighten, John Wood is one of those cool cookies that just gets calmer,” he said.

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Maj. Gen. John Wood receives his first salute as the 3rd Air Force commander during a change-of-commander ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Friday, Sept. 7, 2018.

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