LOUISVILLE, Ky. –
David J. Mounkes was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and officially took charge of the Kentucky Air National Guard during a ceremony here Aug. 13 at the 123rd Airlift Wing.
Mounkes, who previously served as wing commander for five years, now steps into the role of assistant adjutant general for Air — the top Airman in the Kentucky Air Guard. He replaces Brig. Gen. Jeffrey L. Wilkinson, who has served in the same capacity since 2019 and is retiring after more than 28 years in uniform.
“This is a terrific day for the Kentucky National Guard as we’re able to promote a brand-new general officer, David Mounkes,” said Army Maj. Gen. Haldane B. Lamberton, adjutant general of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, who officiated the ceremony.
“I think a lot of you are very much aware of what your Guard has been through over the past couple of weeks for the response to the flooding that’s taken place in Eastern Kentucky. The initial response was very much an integrated, joint, collaborative effort between both components of the Kentucky National Guard — the Air National Guard and the Army National Guard.
“And we sure couldn’t do that without the leadership of folks (like you), Dave. Some of you may be aware, but as he came out of command as the wing commander, we brought him up to Joint Forces Headquarters. Dave, in particular, focused on domestic ops and our subsequent response. And so in that capacity, he really was crucial for the effectiveness I just described that we were able to demonstrate, not just to the folks in Eastern Kentucky, but to the Commonwealth and even nationally.
“We’re a better organization by virtue of General Mounkes,” he added.
Lamberton then bestowed the Legion of Merit award on Mounkes, for outstanding service as commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing from February 2017 to August 2021, and swore him in as Kentucky’s newest general officer.
Next, Lamberton turned his attention to the change of command ceremony, during which the outgoing assistant adjutant general for Air, Wilkinson, passed the unit guidon to Lamberton, who then passed it on to the incoming assistant adjutant general for Air, Mounkes, symbolizing the transfer of power from one leader to the next.
Ceremonial duties complete, Mounkes took the stage to address more than 200 people who had gathered for the event, held in a hangar at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base.
“It's been a busy time in Kentucky as our Commonwealth’s Air and Army National Guard has worked side by side with our state partners to save lives, as has already been referenced today,” Mounkes said.
“Our Soldiers and Airmen rescued 322 men, women and children during the recent floods in Eastern Kentucky, and it seems not too long ago that we were responding to a slew of severe storms and tornadoes in Western Kentucky. So I can tell you from experience that the leadership and capability of our state's National Guard is life-saving. I am so proud to be part of such a healthy and capable generation of leaders and joint partners in Kentucky.
“We have an absolutely superb generation of commanders, supervisors, senior NCOs and leaders at all levels coming up in the 123rd Airlift Wing and at Joint Forces Headquarters — Kentucky,” he added. “Many of these leaders have seen repeated deployments in combat operations, and I look forward to continuing to work with all of you as you develop, advance and keep increasing the culture of excellence in the Kentucky Air National Guard.
“This is an opportune time for our organization. May we take full advantage of it and the quality of people that we have to work as a team.”
Mounkes said the top priorities under his command will be mission readiness and personnel development.
“If you haven't noticed, we're transitioning from almost 30 years of action in the Middle East,” he said. “We're transitioning to ensure we're ready to defend the U.S. and our homes against a very difficult adversary and even an existential threat — something we haven't faced maybe since Pearl Harbor — which means our way of life in the United States is threatened, and that potential threat is China.
“In some ways, 2022 has some things in common with the year 1938, the year leading to Pearl Harbor, as we look at what we need to do to prepare and to be ready for such a potential conflict. China is not going to sit back and let us conduct operations the way we have in the last 30 years. They've watched how we fight, and they've developed counters to how we fight.
“We are not in a time that is ‘business as usual.’ We have to fully engage in developing our Airmen at all levels in conducting hard and realistic training, executing our mission so that we remain the best military in the world.
“Even as we continue to improve our readiness for the war fight,” he added, “we'll also continue to stand ready to respond to any disaster in Kentucky, whether it be flood, earthquake or tornado. When called, we stand immediately ready to efficiently and effectively save lives and mitigate suffering for our fellow Kentuckians.”
Concerning force development, Mounkes pledged to embrace the skills and attributes of every Airman, regardless of status or rank.
“We will continue to select the best Airmen for advancement while ensuring we don't overlook anybody in that selection effort,” he said. “We need smart and capable leaders in Airmen at all levels, and contribution from Airmen of all ranks. I'm challenging all of us to develop and identify Airmen with high emotional intelligence, integrity, discipline, professionalism, maturity and an attitude of service.
“We all need to continue to come together and foster an environment where every Airman is valued and given the opportunity to develop and advance. No one's capability or contribution or potential is left untapped as we work to be the best war-fighters for our country and ready responders for Kentucky. We need to purposely and responsibly care for each Airman — our wingman — so that we have a resilient force that is proud to serve to the best of their ability as a team.
“Let’s challenge each other to serve with excellence, service and integrity.”
As assistant adjutant general for Air, Mounkes provides leadership and management of a diverse wing encompassing tactical airlift, special operations and contingency response units. He is responsible for more than 1,200 Air National Guard members in all aspects of operations, personnel, equipment and funding, ensuring the wing is ready to perform its wartime mission abroad and support stateside contingencies at home.
Mounkes graduated from California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, and received a commission through Officer Training School in 1989. A master navigator, he has flown C-130 combat, combat-support and humanitarian-relief operations worldwide for both the active-duty Air Force and the Air National Guard.
Mounkes initially served on active duty at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, where he spent three years with the 50th Airlift Squadron. He was then selected as a tactical airlift instructor for the 62nd Airlift Squadron, instructing and evaluating both initial tactical airlift students and tactical airlift instructor candidates.
Mounkes transferred to the Kentucky Air National Guard in August 1997 and was mobilized from 2002 to 2003 in support of Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. In the course of his Air Guard career, he has served as director of operations for the 165th Airlift Squadron, commander of the 123rd Contingency Response Group and commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, a post he held from 2016 to 2021. Prior to accepting his current job, Mounkes served for a year as director of policy for air operations, plans and programs at Joint Forces Headquarters — Kentucky.
Mounkes’ operational experience includes tours as commander for the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan; commander of a Contingency Response Element in the Dominican Republic in support of Operation Unified Response; and commander of Joint task Force-Port Opening Senegal for Operation United Assistance in Dakar, Senegal. Other deployments include missions in support of Operations Provide Promise, Restore Hope, Provide Relief, Joint Forge and Coronet Oak.
His awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Aerial Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Southwest Asia Service Medal with one device and Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one device.