The Senate in a pair of July 20 voice votes confirmed the next leaders of the National Guard Bureau and the Air National Guard.
Army National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson will receive a fourth star to serve as the 29th National Guard Bureau chief and become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Hokanson will succeed USAF Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, who has led NGB since August 2016 and is expected to formally pass the torch in early August.
“General Hokanson is an outstanding leader who clearly understands the evolving and complex strategic environment we face at home and overseas,” Lengyel said in a July 21 statement to Air Force Magazine. “His unmatched experience and accomplishments at the state, national, and international levels will help ensure our Guard force remains a strong and trusted partner on the battlefield and during domestic responses. Sally and I wish Dan and Kelly Hokanson all the best as they take on this important role.”
Hokanson’s familiarity with the National Guard, NGB, and Washington will make him “a very effective advocate for Guard Soldiers and Airmen in the Pentagon,” said retired Army Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, president of the National Guard Association of the United States, in a statement to Air Force Magazine.
Air Force Association president and retired USAF Lt. Gen. Bruce “Orville” Wright called Hokanson “a steadfast leader whose career has prepared him well for the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead as the Chief of the National Guard Bureau.”
“AFA is on his wing as he takes over leading our Guardsmen,” Wright said.
Hokanson’s priorities for the job include ensuring NGB readiness, backing up the National Defense Strategy, fostering partnerships at the local, state, and national levels, boosting the bureau’s cyber capabilities, and “ensuring National Guard equipment keeps the Army and Air Guard fully interoperable with the Active-duty components and, where possible, America’s allies,” the Guard wrote on July 21.
In a June 18 appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Hokanson also predicted the Guard would have to step up its homeland security role due to the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest that broke out across the U.S. following George Floyd’s Memorial Day death in police custody, Air Force Magazine previously reported.
Prior to leading ARNG, Hokanson worked as NGB’s vice chief from November 2016-June 2019. He also previously served as deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command and as vice commander of the U.S. Element at North American Aerospace Defense Command.
Before joining the Oregon Army National Guard in 1995, Hokanson was an Active-duty Army aviator, according to an NGB release about his confirmation. He deployed in support of operations including “Just Cause, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom,” it added.
Rice has led the Air National Guard since May 2016. A change-of-command date hasn’t yet been announced.
“I look forward to building upon the outstanding legacy left by Lt. Gen. Scott Rice, and working with Air Force leaders, the adjutants general, and our incredible wing commanders to shape the future of our force,” he said in a release.
In the same release, Lengyel praised Loh as “an outstanding leader who clearly understands the evolving and complex strategic environment we face at home and abroad.”
Loh’s previous postings include National Guard assistant to the commanders of Air Combat Command and 14th Air Force (respectively), mobilization assistant to the commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command, and special assistant to the Air Force Chief of Staff.
He’s also completed multiple deployments to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. Central Command areas of responsibility, and led “combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Provide Comfort II,” his bio notes.
Loh also comes from an Air Force legacy: his father, retired Gen. John Michael Loh, led Air Combat Command from June 1992-July 1995.
“His experience and proven record, especially in helping shape the National Guard’s space mission, make him uniquely qualified to lead the Air National Guard’s modernization efforts to meet tomorrow’s national security challenges and better protect our nation,” Lengyel said.
“Maj. Gen. Michael A. Loh is a terrific Airman with a vast array of experience, making him an ideal leader for the Airmen in the Air National Guard,” he said. “General Loh’s experience throughout his career, including multiple deployments and as Adjunct General for the Colorado National Guard, will benefit all of the Total Force Airmen within the Air National Guard in the years to come under his direction.”
The two incoming leaders have a few things in common:
- They’ve served as state adjutant generals. Loh’s been leading the Colorado National Guard since April 2017, while Hokanson commanded Oregon’s Guard forces from August 2013-2015.
- They’re command pilots. Hokanson’s Guard biography states that he’s accumulated over 2,600 flight hours—more than 50 of which were in combat—in aircraft including the AH-64, OH-58, TH-55, UH-1, and UH-60. According to Loh’s USAF biography, he has over 3,200 flight hours under his belt—including at least 128 in combat—in aircraft including the AT-38, F-16A/B/C/D, T-37, and T-38.
- They’re service-academy graduates. Hokanson graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1986, and Loh graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1984.
- They’ve got Master’s degrees: Hokanson holds two such degrees—one in international security and civil-military relations, and another in national security and strategic studies—and Loh obtained one in business administration.