Hobbins' next post

The mystery is over about the next assignment for Lt. Gen. William "Tom" Hobbins, the Air Force's senior information technology official.

Hobbins is going back to his jet fighter roots and receiving the all-important fourth star. He has been nominated for commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and three other titles of commands at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

The base plans and oversees air missions in the Middle East, so he is getting a big promotion.

But the job is not new to Hobbins. He is a former F-15 pilot who chased away Soviet reconnaissance aircraft when he commanded Air Forces Iceland in the last days of the Cold War. He also helped plan the air war for NATO in Bosnia. And he commanded U.S. Southern Command Air Forces, which oversees military forces for the Caribbean region and Central and South America.

A Senate Armed Services Committee staffer confirmed last week that Hobbins was up for the commander job after the Interceptors got a tip from one of our readers. The staffer said the committee plans to vote his nomination and others out of committee next week, and the Senate will vote on them in a unanimous consent vote.

We have been keeping tabs on Hobbins' next job ever since he was given the "acting" title in May for the Air Force's new IT post, chief of the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, Chief of Warfighting Integration and Chief Information Officer, an office located at the Pentagon and abbreviated SAF/XC.

Hobbins seemed the logical choice to lead the Air Force's new IT organization. However, he and service officials insisted that he hold the position in an acting capacity pending Senate approval or another nomination.

The Air Force nominated Maj. Gen. Michael Peterson to lead SAF/XC in June. We hear he is a great guy and a fabulous choice, and we look forward to meeting him.

However, we're told from a well-placed source in the Air Force that officials decided to nominate Peterson this past spring but waited until early summer to announce it, because Hobbins was up for several big gigs. It was only a matter of time until the Pentagon brass put him in an important job that took advantage of his piloting, air planning and IT knowledge.

The Interceptors have speculated that Hobbins would make a fine Air Force vice chief of staff. In fact, the man Hobbins will replace is a former vice chief of staff.

Gentry, Hylton retiring

We're a little concerned about the state of the Army's network operations (netops), the new IT buzzword in the military, because two good men -- Michael "Doc" Gentry and Maj. Gen. James Hylton -- are retiring.

Gentry retired Sept. 22 as senior technical director/chief engineer and director of Task Force NetOps, a Senior Executive Service slot, at the Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Army Signal Command (Netcom/9th ASC), at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. Gentry came to the fort almost 33 years ago.

The Interceptors had a chance to talk with him earlier this year about the service's steps to improve the way networks are operated, managed and defended, and he was polite, knowledgeable and methodical about how to address the service's information assurance issues.

Hylton will retire Sept. 28 as commanding general of Netcom/9th ASC during a change-of-command ceremony. He helped transform the Army's IT efforts and retires with almost 34 years of service as a signal officer. We had a chance to interview him last month at an Army IT conference. He was courteous, smart and articulate about the service's netops challenges.

With DOD networks under attack from adversaries and the Army's systems a prime target, the service cannot afford command problems. But it appears officials made a good choice in replacing Hylton with Brig. Gen. Carroll Pollett.

Pollett served almost three years as commander of the 5th Signal Command in Mannheim, Germany, and worked for 30 years in the Army as a signal officer. The Army's netops and communications in Europe are considered the best in the service.

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