Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley officially became chief of the National Guard Bureau and was promoted to the rank of general by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in a ceremony today at the Pentagon.
Gates and Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as McKinley’s wife, daughter and son helped add the fourth star to McKinley’s uniform.
The crowd of more than 300 from all ranks, services and many states’ National Guards then watched Gates administer the oath of office to McKinley, who swore in as the first four-star general to lead the National Guard in its 372-year history.
“The promotion of Gen. Craig McKinley to this rank, to serve in this post, is in recognition of his outstanding leadership abilities and shows the confidence the president and I have in him to be the nation’s senior Guard officer at such a critical time,” said Gates.
McKinley succeeds Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, who served some five and a half years as chief of the Bureau and in January will become deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command, the first Guard officer to hold that position.
McKinley joins the ranks of Army generals George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant, and two other former, four-star officers who served as Guardsmen during their military careers.
“It’s a rich and high honor to be the 26th chief of the National Guard Bureau,” said McKinley. “I will give it every bit of energy, every bit of heart and soul that I can possess to make sure that our National Guard and our Soldiers and Airmen are well taken care of, and I will work very closely and faithfully with the services.”
Of the more than 460,000 Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen, some 68,000 Army and 5,700 Air Guard members were on active duty for Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom today. Furthermore, on any given day an average of 17 governors call out their National Guard for a variety of domestic needs.
McKinley is the fourth Air Guard officer to serve as CNGB. He most recently served as director for the Air National Guard. There, he was responsible for policies, plans and programs affecting more than 106,000 Airmen.
Gates credited McKinley for successfully leading the Air Guard during a time of severe manpower reductions and other, major challenges from the Global War on Terrorism, Base Realignment and Closure implementation, budget changes and the transformation of the National Guard from a strategic reserve to an operational force.
McKinley received his Air Force commission in 1974 after graduating from Southern Methodist University in Dallas with a degree in business administration. He holds master’s degrees in management and economics and in national security strategy. He is a command pilot with more than 4,000 flight hours.