AFCENT changes command in historic ceremony


AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar – Lt. Gen. Joseph T. Guastella Jr. assumed command of U.S. Air Forces Central Command from Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian Aug. 30.

Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel, U.S. Central Command commander, presided over the ceremony, which was held at AFCENT’s forward headquarters at Al Udeid Air Base for the first time. AFCENT’s headquarters is at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

“In the coming era of great power competition, it will be our people and our leaders that will be the difference makers as they direct and enable the military operations and activities in support of our enduring national interests,” said Votel. “And we will prevail because of the edge they give us. Lt. Gen. Guastella, I have full faith and confidence in your leadership and capabilities.”

Guastella was promoted to lieutenant general prior to the ceremony. As AFCENT commander, he will provide the full-spectrum of air component capabilities in air, space and cyberspace to defeat enemies while promoting security and stability in the region.

As the Combined Force Air Component commander for the CENTCOM area of responsibility, he will work closely with coalition, joint and interagency partners across Southwest Asia to ensure stability and defense of a 20-nation region spanning from Egypt to Afghanistan.

“It goes without saying that I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to lead the men and women of AFCENT and to be a partner of this great coalition,” said Guastella. “To our Airmen, joint warfighters, and men and women of coalition who get the job done: it’s our youngest Airmen who have signed up to serve our nation who inspire me. From aircrews flying missions to maintainers on the flight line in extremely hot temperatures to logisticians moving supplies to and from the fight to support Airmen, you guys are why I continue to serve, so I’m honored to be your new commander and to be a partner with you in this fight.”

Most recently, Guastella served as Headquarters Air Force Space Command’s director of integrated air, space, cyberspace and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.

“Just over two years ago, I was honored by Gen. Votel, our partner nation’s delegates, our coalition, joint and interagency partners and the men and women of U.S. Air Forces Central Command,” said Harrigian. “It has been an incredible two years.”

Harrigian, assumed command in July 2016. He led U.S. and coalition air operations for Operation Inherent Resolve, the mission to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and against the Taliban and terrorist networks as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.

During his tenure, Harrigian flew multiple combat sorties in the F-22 Raptor as part of OIR.

Over the last two years, the international coalition to defeat ISIS achieved multiple milestones enabled by airpower, including the 2017 liberations of Mosul and Raqqah. Air strikes against ISIS and air operations in support of Coalition and partnered ground forces have devastated the terrorist group, and enabled the final phase of the Defeat-ISIS campaign, Operation Roundup.

Under Harrigian’s leadership, the air component supported the Afghan government by striking the Taliban and training, advising and assisting Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, especially the Afghan Air Force.

In 2017, the U.S. began a deliberate air campaign to strike Taliban revenue sources to pressure them to reconcile with the Afghan government. Earlier this year, in line with the new South Asia strategy, AFCENT re-aligned A-10 Thunderbolts, KC-135 Stratotankers and MQ-9 Reapers to Afghanistan as part of a refocus on operations in Afghanistan.

“What this team is accomplishing every day is something we all should be proud of,” Harrigian said. “With over 70 nations and over 21,000 Joint and combined Airmen, it’s clear to me the coalition remains strong. Our mission was clear: to deliver the world’s most decisive air, space and cyberspace effects for United States Central Command and for our partners.”

Harrigian turns over AFCENT to Guastella, who has plenty of experience in the region.

“Lt. Gen. Harrigian, I can’t be more proud to follow in your footsteps,” said Guastella. “You’ve taken this very difficult job as Combined Forces Air Component Commander and taken it to another level. I’m deeply honored to hopefully build on your tremendous success.”

Guastella previously served as the director of operations for AFCENT and the Combined Air Operations Center from 2006 to 2007. He also commanded the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, from 2012 to 2013.

Guastella has flown the F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II, served multiple combat tours, and instructed at the U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School. He has flown more than 4,000 flight hours including combat missions in support of operations Just Cause and Desert Storm. He previously commanded at the flight, squadron and wing levels.

Guastella commissioned in 1987 after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy. He thanked his family for their support throughout his career and Harrigian for setting such a high standard.

Harrigian’s next assignment will be as the deputy commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.