• Gen. Mark Kelly, USAF, is now the new commander of Air Combat Command. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Salazar
     Gen. Mark Kelly, USAF, is now the new commander of Air Combat Command. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Salazar
  • Gen. Mike Holmes, USAF, retires as Air Combat Commander on August 28. Credit: Air Combat Command
     Gen. Mike Holmes, USAF, retires as Air Combat Commander on August 28. Credit: Air Combat Command

General Kelly Takes Command of ACC

August 28, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
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General Mike Holmes retires as leader of Air Combat Command after 39 years of Air Force service.

The U.S. Air Force’s Air Combat Command, headquartered at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia and known as ACC, has a new leader. In a ceremony broadcast via video on August 28, Gen. Mark Kelly, USAF, took over the command from retiring Gen. Mike Holmes, USAF. Gen. Kelly also received his fourth star at the event, promoting him from lieutenant general.

Most recently, Gen. Kelly served since August 2018 as the deputy chief of staff for ACC operations at the Pentagon. The deputy chief of staff determines the requirements, capabilities and training necessary for the service to conduct its missions.

Gen. Holmes had led the ACC since March 2017, ushering the command to through some of the largest changes in decades, including the ACC’s assumption of cyber responsibilities and the integration of the necessary capabilities to create both the nonkinetic effects and the traditional tool set of kinetic weapons and airpower. The move to advance and centralize the Air Force’s information warfare capabilities led to the service standing up the 16th Air Force last fall. The reactivated Numbered Air Force (NAF) then took on the Air Force’s cyber role and mission of providing global integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and electronic warfare, as well as representing the service at the U.S. Cyber Command. Previously, the old Air Force Space Command—which is now a command in the U.S. Space Force—held the responsibility for the service’s Cyber Mission.

The restructuring effort Gen. Holmes championed also brought into the 16th Air Force the 557th Weather Wing from the 12th Air Force. The wing provides key weather intelligence to the U.S. military, the federal government and allies. “It makes sense” to pull those weather intelligence capabilities into the Information Warfare NAF, Gen. Holmes said.

In addition, last fall the Holmes-led ACC began advancing its multidomain operations and the Air Force’s contribution to Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2), the U.S. military’s bold vision to interconnect weapon systems in the air, sea, space, land and digital realms.

Last week, the ACC added another reactivated NAF, the 15th Air Force, which brings its conventional forces together under one NAF, a move that Gen. Holmes said will “streamline and improve the way we generate and present dynamic, agile, and lethal combat airpower.”

In highlighting the accomplishments of Gen. Holmes—also known by his call sign Mobile—at the change of command ceremony, Gen. Charles Brown, USAF, the new chief of staff of the Air Force, confirmed that the service needed such an impressive leader at this time, one who delivered over 5,000 aircraft all over the globe during his tenure as head of ACC.

“Mobile is not afraid to challenge the status quo…to bring new capabilities to the warfighter faster,” Gen. Brown said. “Under Mobile’s direct leadership, we experimented with wing organizational structures. Last year we combined the ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], cyber and weather into the Information Warfare-focused NAF. The 16th Air Force is exactly the type of command our Air Force needs to compete and deter, and if the deterrence fails, to fight and win in this age of great power competition. In the sprint to the finish, because Mobile wasn’t quite done, he set the conditions to combine the 9th and 12th Air Forces under one hat of the 15th Air Force. This move will combine multiple capabilities of our Air Forces, to be more lethal and agile in combat, and to more effectively present our air power to combatant commanders.”  

Taking the podium as the new commander of the ACC, Gen. Kelly recognized the trust place in him to lead and build an ultimate team.

“In the military dictionary of all that is awesome and all that is cool, you get to lead the leaders who lead 94,000 airmen,” Gen. Kelly said. “[They are] the finest sons and daughters our nation has ever produced, who are entrusted with the no-fail missions of protecting the skies over our nation, who are responsible for combat operations around the globe, responsible for training and being the best aviators, sensor operators, maintainers on Earth. Our air surveillance professionals who provide the unwavering, unblinking eyes of our nation, America’s cyber experts, our weather experts and our nation’s personnel rescue experts who ensure that someone’s worst day doesn’t become their last day. The incredible talent of our support airmen, and our medical professionals who sustain our force. If you wake up, and that is part of your job description, if you are lucky just to hang out with these folks, much less lead them and learn from them, it is a really good day.”

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