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Stewart takes command of the 19th Air Force continuing the focus of accelerating change

  • Published
  • By Aryn Lockhart
  • 19th Air Force

Maj. Gen. Phillip Stewart took command of 19th Air Force, from Maj. Gen. Craig Wills during a change of command ceremony at Hanger 41 here Aug 19. 

Lt. Gen. Brian Robinson, Air Education and Training commander, presided over the ceremony thanking the men and women of the 19th Air Force and described the significant impact the command has on the AETC mission. He outlined the vast footprint of the 19th Air Force, which is the command home to 32,000 Airmen that spans over 17 wings and executes approximately 500,000 flying hours a year, which is just shy of 50 percent of the United States Air Force total flying hours.

“First and foremost to the men and women of the 19th Air Force. We cannot say enough to thank you for your incredible contributions to AETC’s mission, the Air Force and our great nation. In terms of the fleet alone, by all accounts, 19th Air Force would be equal to the fifth largest air force by fleet size in the world. That is significant and you make it look easy, but it is not,” said Robinson.

Robinson spoke in detail about Wills’ contributions to include implementing the first major changes in pilot training in three decades that proved to be an enterprise ready solution all while overcoming the pandemic. He also spoke of Wills’ efforts to improve rated diversity championing change in policy.

Transitioning to Maj. Gen. Stewart, Robinson shared the vast leadership roles that Stewart commanded throughout his career. A long legacy of service, Stewart is the fifth generation to serve within his family.

Robinson shared how General Tod Wolters, U.S. European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), described Stewart as the most innovative general officer that he’d seen in his entire career.

“We need that as we continue to accelerate and change at AETC. Your innovative spirit and experience will be crucial to the ongoing evolution of the 19th Air Force. It will cultivate our greatest strength and deliver airpower,” said Robinson.  

During his remarks, Stewart shared how he became the Aide de Camp for the 19th Air Force commander from 1999 – 2000.

As a young captain, he was asked by his commander to apply for the aide de camp position. He wasn’t interested and agreed to meet, but had a list of reasons why he did not want the job. Upon meeting with the general, he was immediately told he was hired.

“The point of that is, left to my own devices and my own decisions, I would just be retired Lt. Col. Phil Stewart, with a long career in flying, but it’s mentors who help make Airmen,” said Stewart. “It’s people much wiser, much smarter who took time out of their day to look at a young kid and say, hey maybe one day you might be here.”

“I recognize job one in this command is growing Airmen. Growing great men and women who will one day stand on this stage, who will one day be sitting in that chair on stage. There’s no better command than AETC for that,” said Stewart.

Prior to taking command, Stewart was the Deputy Chief of Staff, Strategic Employment, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, Belgium. In this capacity, he managed all operations, missions and activities for Allied Command Operations.

Maj Gen Stewart was commissioned in 1992 through ROTC after graduating from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He earned three a Master’s degrees in Military Studies, Operational Planning, and Strategic Studies.

He is a command pilot with more than 2,600 hours of flying time.

During Maj. Gen. Wills’ remarks, he took the time to thank many who supported him during his time as commander to include the 19th Air Force Staff and the instructors within the 19th Air Force.

Traditionally a final salute is rendered to the outgoing commander, however, Maj Gen Wills offered a symbol of his gratitude and respect and rendered a final salute to the 19th AF.

“Thank you to the men and women of the 19th Air Force it’s been an honor to serve with you. Thank you for what you do for America,” said Wills.

 Wills retires in Dec 2022 and plans to stay in the San Antonio area.