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Welsh Tapped to Succeed Schwartz as Chief of Staff: President Obama nominated Gen. Mark Welsh, US Air Forces in Europe commander, to succeed Gen. Norton Schwartz as Air Force Chief of Staff. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made the announcement during a Pentagon press briefing on May 10. If the Senate approves Welsh's nomination, he would become the Air Force's 20th Chief of Staff. A 1976 Air Force Academy graduate, Welsh said he was "tremendously honored and deeply humbled" by the nomination. "If confirmed, I'll do everything in my power to live up to the example set by Gen. Norty Schwartz and the other great officers who have led our service so well throughout its remarkable history," he said. Prior to leading USAFE, Welsh was the CIA's associate director for military affairs where he worked closely with Panetta, the then-CIA director. "Over the course of our time working together, I developed a deep appreciation for his wisdom and his counsel," said Panetta of Welsh. Panetta said he thinks Welsh "has the right leadership qualities and distinguished background to follow his extraordinary predecessor, General Schwartz." Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said Welsh's "proven performance, deep experience, and leadership ability make him the ideal candidate." Schwartz, whose four-year term as CSAF is up in August, called Welsh "a natural leader with an impressive record of accomplishments and a wide range of experience." (SAF/PA release) (Panetta-Dempsey transcript)