JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM - Gen. Hawk Carlisle assumed command of Pacific Air Forces on Friday, becoming the top Air Force commander in the Asia-Pacific region.
The command pilot took over from Gen. Gary North, who is retiring after more than three decades in the Air Force, during a ceremony held in an airplane hangar. Carlisle comes to Hawaii from Washington, where he determined Air Force operational requirements and training as the service's deputy chief of staff.
The 1978 Air Force Academy graduate takes over as the U.S. begins to boost its presence in the Asia-Pacific region under a defense strategy announced earlier this year. It's not clear how the shift will affect the Air Force. In June, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the Navy would deploy 60 percent of its fleet to the region by 2020, up from 50 percent currently.
Adm. Samuel Locklear, who leads all U.S. forces in the region as the leader of the U.S. Pacific Command, said Carlisle is well prepared to assume the strategically important command of Pacific Air Forces.
"He's an impressive leader with a distinctive career with significant experience in this region, which is very important to me," Locklear said, noting that Carlisle had group command in Japan and led the 13th Air Force in Hawaii.
Carlisle has piloted a wide range of aircraft, from F-15 fighter jets to C-17 cargo planes, and even Russian MiGs as part of a classified program.
Pacific Air Forces includes nearly 45,000 military and civilian personnel in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Japan and South Korea.