OSAN Air Base -- New US 7th Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach vowed Monday to keep "unequaled" military readiness to back up ongoing peace efforts with North Korea, as he took the helm of the South Korea-based unit.
During his change-of-responsibility ceremony in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, the commander noted the importance of the South Korea-US alliance, calling it "born out of strategic significance and mutual respect."
"The strength of the Republic of Korea-US alliance is very clear to me as I stand here ... It thrives on the strength of the combined militaries, and it evolves each and every day as we continue to learn from one another," he said.
"I look forward to partnering with you as we continue to support our diplomatic efforts by maintaining unequaled military readiness, prepared to deter, defend, and if called upon, defeat the enemy," he added.
Wilsbach, who previously served as the commander of the Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region, succeeded Lt. Gen. Thomas W. Bergeson who had led the 7th Air Force since July 2016.
Aside from the 7th Air Force chief post, Wilsbach undertook a series of other responsibilities, such as the commander of the Air Component Command of the South Korea-US Combined Forces Command, and the US representative to the joint committee for the Status of Forces agreement.
Officiating the ceremony, US Forces Korea Commander Gen. Vincent Brooks noted Bergeson's contribution.
"What I will say is that the situation on the peninsula is fundamentally changed from the way it was two years ago due to the expert use of air power to demonstrate resolve to expose North Korea's vulnerabilities and to demonstrate self-restraint ... all working together to create an opening for diplomacy to take hold," he said.
He was referring to Bergeson's contribution to the security on the peninsula.
Brooks described Wilsbach as an "experienced warrior and just what the doctor ordered for the complexities that await us on the horizon."
"I am happy to say that the US Air Force has delivered once again a tremendous replacement as the Air Force has always done here in Korea," he said.
Recalling his two-year service here, Bergeson said that it has been "punctuated by both moments of unprecedented hostilities and unprecedented opportunities."
"But one constant during this historic time has been the resolve of our servicemen and women like a steel sword each tried by fire only served to strengthen the steel," he said.
"Our military strength has given our diplomats the strongest possible hand for negotiations and has served as a catalyst for unprecedented events for the past few months, including presidential summits and the repatriation of remains from North Korea," he added.
Wilsbach was commissioned in 1985 as a graduate of the University of Florida's ROTC program. He is a command pilot with more than 5,000 hours in various aircraft, such as the F-15C and F-22A. (Yonhap)