Airmen in Europe and Africa welcomed a new leader Wednesday, a seasoned fighter pilot who’s already had a stint of on-the-job training.
Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian assumed of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa from Gen. Tod D. Wolters at a ceremony presided over by some of the military’s top commanders, including Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.
Harrigian, a fighter pilot who has flown more than 4,000 hours in the F-22 and F-15C, among other airframes, has worked with Wolters as his deputy commander since last fall.
That assignment is one of three tours Harrigian had in Europe in the last 15 years, said Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, U.S. European Command commander and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe. That experience gives Harrigian “significant regional expertise,” Scaparrotti said, makimg him “the right leader at the right time” for USAFE-AFAFRICA.
On Monday, the Senate confirmed Harrigian’s nomination to lead USAFE-AFAFRICA. Hours before Wednesday’s ceremony, he also received his fourth star.
Wolters, meanwhile, is slated to take charge of EUCOM and NATO Allied Command Operations from Scaparrotti at a ceremony on Thursday. He has led USAFE-AFAFRICA since August 2016.
Harrigian will lead some 32,000 airmen in his new command at a time when much of the Air Force focus in Europe continues to be upon improving readiness and supporting allies, while keeping a close watch on Russia. The Air Force has invested millions of dollars into building up infrastructure at bases in former Eastern Bloc countries, such as Poland and Estonia.
Down the road, Harrigian may also help oversee the standing up of the first two U.S. F-35A Lightning II stealth jet squadrons, slated to arrive at RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom in 2021. The Suffolk base will be the first permanent international site for the U.S. Air Force F-35s in Europe.
“I’m committed to giving you my all,” Harrigian said after taking command. “I’m fired up to work with each and every one of you,” adding that USAFE-AFAFRICA airmen have the chance “to make a difference … to put our stamp on history.”
In Africa, a new air base under construction in Agadez, Niger, is set to reach “initial capability” this summer, said Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander of U.S. Africa Command. The project has overcome material shortages, environmental challenges, “and, of all things, locust swarms,” he said during Wednesday’s ceremony.
Wolters thanked USAFE-AFAFRICA airmen for maintaining peace in Europe and in Africa.
“On countless exercises and numerous real-world events, you have relentlessly driven to achieve success at a pace that delivers victory,” he said. “I applaud your efforts.”
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