U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Ricky N. Rupp assumed command of United States Forces Japan and 5th Air Force from Lt. Gen. Kevin B. Schneider, August 27.
U.S. Navy Adm. John Aquilino, commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, presided over the U.S. Forces Japan change of command while U.S. Air Force Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach, commander, Pacific Air Forces, subsequently presided over the 5th Air Force change of command.
Aquilino recognized the two outstanding leaders and acknowledged the ironclad U.S.-Japan Alliance.
“The bonds between the U.S. Forces in Japan and our Japanese Self Defense Force counterparts represents one of the strongest and most important relationships we have globally,” said Aquilino.
“Our deep shared values are central to the enduring friendship…the true strength of our Alliance. The tremendous daily work of our service men and women alongside our host nation friends preserves the rules-based international order that protects our way of life.”
Lt. Gen. Schneider, having commanded USFJ and 5th Air Force since February 5, 2019, has overseen the operations of the 54,000 servicemen and women of U.S. Forces Japan while being at the forefront of the U.S.–Japan Alliance and working to enhance regional security through the execution of joint, multilateral exercises, and close coordination with the Japanese government. Notably, steering the force through the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent, voluntary inoculation of the more than 100,000 USFJ service members, dependents, DoD civilians and host nation employees.
“Two and half years ago, I stood here and spoke of the importance of the US-Japan alliance and that it was the most important alliance and strategic relationship the United States has … and after living here for the past two and a half years, I will once again make those same statements with even greater emphasis and conviction,” Schneider said.
“This day is filled with many emotions … A bit of sadness as well as the pride that goes along with having been part of this amazing alliance at such a critical time in history. I pass the flag to Ricky Rupp knowing that he’s extremely well equipped to continue to advance on the issues and challenges in front of us; enjoy and cherish every day – the time will pass in a hurry.”
Lt. Gen. Rupp comes to Japan from Maryland where he served as commander of the Air Force District of Washington as well as commander of the 320th Air Expeditionary Wing headquartered at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
He is a command pilot with more than 4,800 flight hours in various aircraft, including the C-130, C-17 and T-38, where his flying experience includes missions during Operations Desert Shield, Provide Promise, Allied Force, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Rupp was last stationed in Japan from 2010 to 2011 where he was the vice commander of the 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan.
“I am truly honored by your trust and confidence in my ability to lead our joint force Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Guardians, to work with our incredible allies from Japan, and to advance the readiness and combat capabilities of our two militaries,” said Rupp.
“The ability of these commands to balance operational deployments, alliance actions, and bilateral exercises with operational effectiveness, force health protection, and morale reflect nothing less than the greatest passion, leadership, and dedication this team delivers daily. I also look forward to working together to sustain the strength of our shared communities, the resolve of our strategic partnership, the readiness of our combined forces, and to further the close friendships that follow [with our Japanese allies].”
For more than 60 years, the U.S.-Japan Alliance has been the cornerstone of stability and security in the Indo-Pacific and will continue to play that role in the future.
Image credit: Photo By: Senior Airman Brieana Bolfing. The official party stands at attention during the U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force change of command ceremony at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Aug. 27, 2021. During the ceremony, Lt Gen. Ricky N. Rupp assumed command of USFJ and 5th AF from Lt. Gen. Lt. Gen. Kevin B. Schneider.