News | July 21, 2022

New AFCENT commander focused on fostering ‘Team of Teams’ in Middle East

By Capt. Kayshel Trudell Ninth Air Force

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Alexus G. Grynkewich became the commander of Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central), succeeding U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Gregory Guillot, during a change of command ceremony at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, July 21, 2022. U.S. Army Gen. Michael E. Kurilla, commander of U.S. CENTCOM, presided over the ceremony.

After describing Brig. Gen. Junius Jones leadership as the first commander of 9 AF (AFCENT), Kurilla said, “Under the new command, our adversaries and our competitors can expect nothing different from AFCENT. What was true in 1941 remains just as relevant today: we will protect our interests, we will defend our troops and partners, we will serve as a force for stability across the Middle East.”

Grynkewich will serve as the commander of 9 AF (AFCENT), the combined forces air component, the regional air defense commander, and other organizations. As AFCENT commander and CFACC, the 29-year veteran works closely with coalition, joint, and interagency partners to lead a team of teams – a combined force that delivers decisive air and space power and promotes security throughout U.S. CENTCOM’s 21-nation area of responsibility. Further, roughly 15,000 Airmen of the 332d, 378th, 379th, 380th, and 386th Air Expeditionary Wings as well as units such as the Combined Air Operations Center and Air Warfare Center will fall under his direction.

“Here is a short list of just a sampling of what Ninth Air Force does for the Nation and the world today: flies daily missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria, shoots down unmanned aerial vehicles, goes wing-to-wing with Russian fighter jets, conducts air strikes against Iranian-backed militias, and flies deterrence missions in support of our troops and our partners,” Kurilla said.

The Qatari military hosted the ceremony, with the Qatar Minister of Defense, His Excellency Dr. Khaled al Attiyah, and Advisor for Defense Affairs to his Highness the Emir, General Hamad bin Ali al Attiyah were both in attendance.

“For hosting us in the state of Qatar, partnering on so many important issues and sharing their vision for peace and stability in the region, you are all true friends first as well as partners,” said Guillot.

Guillot departs AFCENT after two years in command. Under his leadership, AFCENT moved its headquarters from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, executed 60,140 combat sorties, offloaded 4.9 million pounds of fuel, transported 219,325 passengers, and moved 139,385 tons of cargo. Additionally, AFCENT sustained Operation Allies Refuge evacuated 124,000 refugees from Kabul, Afghanistan, delivering hope and opportunity to people who previously had none, over a 17-day period.

“It has been the honor of my professional life to be trusted to lead the women and the men AFCENT and to help continue the proud combat legacy our predecessors began during WWII,” Guillot said. “Like those heroes from the original 9th Air Force, we have and will continue to fly, fight and, mostly importantly, win.”

Before taking command, Grynkewich served as the Director of Operations, U.S. CENTCOM. He has commanded at the squadron, wing, and Air Expeditionary Task Force levels. He also served as the Deputy Commander for Operations for Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.

Grynkewich highlighted the need for innovation among both U.S. and partners in the region.

“Ninth Air Force never goes into battle alone. We are comprised of not only U.S. Air Force Airmen but members from each us service as well as personnel from 17 coalition nations,” said Grynkewich. “In the field, the regional and coalition forces in the air component represent some of the most capable air forces on the entire planet. As we work together, we must find new ways to counter these new threats. As technology races ahead, we must identify the risks and exploit the opportunities the progress and change bring.”  

Grynkewich highlighted the role every member of the command, to include AFCENT’s joint and coalition partners, has in leveraging their potential to continue safe and effective execution of combat operations and fostering a culture of innovation across the command.

“This is an amazing region with a rich history, vibrant cultures and a geostrategic importance that is difficult to overstate. It is a high honor to continue to serve in such a vital part of our world,” Grynkewich said. “To both our friends, our competitors and our adversaries: know that 9th Air Force and AFCENT are here to stay.

Grynkewich follows in the footsteps of many historic Air Force leaders before him, including four Chief of Staffs of the U.S. Air Force—Generals Hoyt S. Vandenberg, David L. Godfein, T. Michael Moseley, and CQ Brown, Jr.—and Chuck Horner, a hero of the Vietnam War and critical to the airpower success of Desert Shield  and Desert Storm.

Grynkewich earned his commission in 1993 after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has served as an instructor pilot, weapons officer, and operational test pilot in the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-22 Raptor.