‘Let’s Do This’
Lt. Gen. Clark takes command of USAFA; Lt. Gen. Silveria retires
Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria ’85 relinquished command of the United States Air Force Academy to incoming Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark ’86 in a socially distanced ceremony at Falcon Stadium Wednesday morning, Sept. 23.
In attendance were a number of dignitaries, family members and friends. Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. and Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations with the Space Force, officiated the hour-long Change of Command ceremony.
Silveria has led the Academy for the past three years, guiding his alma mater through significant challenges during his tenure. Some of the highlights include increasing the number of pilot slots available to new Academy graduates; successfully completing a 10-year accreditation process; commissioning the first second lieutenants into the new Space Force; guiding the institution through changes in sexual assault prevention and victim support efforts; and promoting dignity and respect among all in the Cadet Wing and the permanent party.
In recent months, Silveria and his team have had to deal with a global pandemic, which included pivoting to online classes, sending the lower three classes home for several months and graduating the Class of 2020 a month early.
In remarks following his official retirement from the Air Force after 35 years of service, Silveria thanked cadets and the USAFA team for their support and hard work over the past three years.
“Changes of command are so important for an organization,” he said. “They mark the end and a beginning. We say thank you and some smiles, but more importantly, we look forward.”
Silveria noted that he and his family had moved 18 times during his military career and admitted it will seem strange not being an Air Force officer anymore.
He and his wife, Virginia, plan to spend some quality time on the beach in North Carolina before moving to the Washington, D.C., area for the next chapter in their lives. Silveria assured all that he is now and will always be a proud member of the Long Blue Line.
“There’s only blue in me,” he said. “I bleed blue. The fact that I’m able to end my career at the Air Force Academy with the chance to make a difference and shape the future of our Air Force and our Space Force has been nothing but a privilege.”
In taking command as the 21st superintendent of the Academy, Clark thanked his family and all those who supported him throughout his career. Clark becomes the first former USAFA commandant of cadets (serving here from 2010 to 2012) to return as superintendent.
During his comments, Clark recalled the first time he stepped onto the Falcon Stadium field as an Academy football player. He also recalled his graduation ceremony on that same field.
“Today, as I step on this field once again, it’s significant because I’m honored and privileged by the opportunity to give something back to the school that has given me so much,” he said.
He told cadets in attendance that his mission is to make their dreams come true, just like his dreams have come true. He also told the Cadet Wing he’s proud of them for persevering through the challenges related to the pandemic.
“Always remember the age-old adage, tough times don’t last but tough people do,” he said. “I’m proud of you, I’m here for you, and I promise that I will leave it on the field for you. Let’s do this.”
Barrett thanked Silveria on behalf of a grateful nation and wished him well during his retirement and in his future endeavors.
Barrett also welcomed Lt. Gen. Clark back to his alma mater for another tour of developing leaders of character for the military and the nation.
“You epitomized integrity, service and excellence throughout your career, and now you will instill those fundamental values into future Air and Space Force officers,” she said. “We are deeply grateful for your leadership.”
Gen. Brown thanked Silveria for his leadership during a pivotal period in the institution’s history.
“He’s always been a leader who has been out front and leads by example, both in word and deed,” he said. “He doesn’t shy away from a challenge. Jay, I want to thank you for a well-done job.”
Brown called Clark the “right leader” to foster education, provide empowerment and instill enthusiasm at USAFA.
“I’m confident he’s going to be a tremendous superintendent,” Brown said.
Gen. Raymond also praised Silveria during his comments. He noted that the first 86 Academy cadets to commission directly into the Space Force in 2020 helped build the new service “from the ground up.”
“He was the right leader to transform USAFA to address the rapid changes occurring across the global security environment,” he said.
Raymond welcomed Lt. Gen. Clark and his family to the Colorado Springs area.
“Now you’re charged with a new and unique opportunity, to continue to build the Air Force Academy into the institution of choice for aspiring air and space professionals,” he said.
In a press conference following the ceremony, Lt. Gen. Clark said he’s thrilled to return to USAFA in the institution’s top role. But he has no illusions that he knows everything about today’s Academy because of his previous commandant role.
“I’m going to be learning a lot from the team we have here,” he said. “The Academy has changed a lot in the last 10 years.”
In speaking directly to the graduate community, Lt. Gen. Clark said he appreciates the continuing support of alumni everywhere.
“I see the level of support that they provide,” he said. “And I see the commitment they still have for our Academy. Just like any other institution, our alumni are a huge pillar of who we are and the successes that we’ll have. It’s vital.”