U.S. Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost on Oct. 15 became the first woman to lead the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), officially taking the reigns during a change of command ceremony at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. The components of TRANSCOM include the Army’s Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, the Navy’s Military Sealift Command and the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command.
During the ceremony, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said, “I’m not the world’s most experienced logistician, but I am one of the world’s most experienced consumers. So, I know that I’m looking right now at the people who make the American military move. On any given day, some 115 TRANSCOM railcars are moving DOD equipment, 33 ships are getting underway and 1,500 trucks are delivering cargo. And about every two minutes, a TRANSCOM plane is taking off or landing somewhere around the world – hauling supplies, refueling aircraft or moving patients.”
Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, commended the professionalism and capabilities inherent in the command. He said TRANSCOM is the key to American military successes going back to World War II, and noted the Red Ball Express (a convoy system) that kept Allied forces supplied over the beaches of Normandy in 1944 after the U.S. Merchant Marine delivered the cargo. That same spirit still permeates today’s U.S. Transportation Command, the chairman said.
“I assure you, TRANSCOM will defend our nation through rapid power projection and sustainment, while continuing to build a unity of effort through the strong bonds of our industry partners and our allies and partners,” Van Ovost said. “We will also remain committed to our most critical asset – our people.”
Van Ovost is a career mobility airman who graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1988 and has since commanded the 384th Air Refueling Squadron at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas; the 12th Flying Training Wing at Joint Base San Antonio- Randolph, Texas; and the 89th Airlift Wing, or Presidential Airlift Wing, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
A pilot with more than 4,200 hours in 30-plus aircraft, Van Ovost led Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base since August 2020, overseeing 100,000 military and civilian personnel and 1,100 aircraft spanning aerial refueling tankers, massive cargo transport planes and VIP jets. She’s also served as the Joint Staff’s vice director; the Air Force’s staff director; U.S. Central Command’s head of mobility forces; and vice commander of the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center, a school focused on rapid-response and combat mobility operations.
Austin said that Van Ovost is the perfect person to follow outgoing Commander Army Gen. Stephen Lyons and to continue the development of the command. “She’s a legend of a leader, and the American military is lucky to have her on the job,” the secretary said. “I know that she’ll continue to push the envelope and exceed all expectations, because that’s what she’s always done.”
“When people ask me ‘How does TRANSCOM do it? What is the secret to success?’ I tell them the truth. We are blessed with incredible people from around the globe,” Lyons said. “To the men and women of TRANSCOM, it has been my greatest honor to serve as your 13th commander.”
Van Ovost expressed her appreciation, and thanked Lyons for his leadership and service: “We are all grateful to have been under your command and to have taken part in your legacy,” she said. “It is an honor of a lifetime to be selected to lead the United States Transportation Command as we prepare to meet the challenges of tomorrow, today. Together, we will deliver.”
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