General Norton Schwartz, the first Jewish Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, recently had his final military flight last month in advance of his retirement ceremony scheduled for this week. During a visit to Hurlburt Field to meet with Airmen and Air Force Special Operations Command leadership, Schwartz joined an MC-130E crew on a local training sortie.
The specific MC-130E he flew was the very one Schwartz piloted on a memorable but arduous mission in 1982. Schwartz commented that the aircraft held a special place in his heart. Before boarding, he stopped and saluted the aircraft, which along with the general is also scheduled for retirement.
Many of the flight crew for the mission had either flown with him or served under him during his special operations tours. The flight engineer, Chief Master Sgt. Tyler Outten, flew with him when he commanded the 36th Tactical Airlift Squadron at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., in 1987.
While Gen Schwartz never wore his Judaism on his sleeve, he has said publicly that he is “proud to be identified as a Jewish as well as an American military leader.”
Gen Schwartz led the Air Force during a period of numerous scandals involving Christian proselytizing at the Air Force Academy and throughout the Air Force. He took criticism from some for his response in a memo “cautioning leaders at all levels to balance the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom and the prohibition on government intrusion.”
Perhaps what he will be remembered for most is that he was the first Air Force Chief of Staff not to have a background as a fighter or bomber pilot, shattering the popular belief that once must be a “pointy nose” guy to truly excel in the Air Force ranks.
Regardless of how he got there, Gen Schwartz has done his nation, his service, and his people proud during his long and illustrious career in the Air Force. Kol ha’kavod General.