Guard's first 4-star general ready to take Minutemen forward

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
  • National Guard Bureau Public Affairs
A crowd of more than 300 people from all ranks and services watched as the secretary of Defense swore in and promoted the first four-star general to lead the National Guard in its 372-year history Nov. 17 in the Pentagon.

Gen. Craig R. McKinley became the chief of the National Guard Bureau and received his fourth star by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

Secretary Gates and Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as General McKinley's wife, daughter and son helped add the fourth star to the general's uniform.

"The promotion of General Craig McKinley to this rank, to serve in this post, is in recognition of his outstanding leadership abilities and shows the confidence the president and I have in him to be the nation's senior Guard officer at such a critical time," Secretary Gates said.

General McKinley succeeds Army Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, who served 5.5 years as chief of the Bureau and in January will become deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command, the first Guard officer to hold that position.

General McKinley joins the ranks of Army Generals George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant, and two other former, four-star officers who served as Guardsmen during their military careers.

"It's a rich and high honor to be the 26th chief of the National Guard Bureau," General McKinley said. "I will give it every bit of energy, every bit of heart and soul that I can possess to make sure that our National Guard and our Soldiers and Airmen are well taken care of, and I will work very closely and faithfully with the services."

Of the more than 460,000 Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen, some 68,000 Army and 5,700 Air Guard members were on active duty for operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom today. Furthermore, on any given day an average of 17 governors call out their National Guard for a variety of domestic needs.

General McKinley is the fourth Air Guard officer to serve as chief of the National Guard Bureau. He most recently served as director for the Air National Guard. There, he was responsible for policies, plans and programs affecting more than 106,000 Airmen.

Secretary Gates credited General McKinley for successfully leading the Air Guard during a time of severe manpower reductions and other, major challenges from the war on terrorism, Base Realignment and Closure implementation, budget changes and the transformation of the National Guard from a strategic reserve to an operational force.

General McKinley received his Air Force commission in 1974 after graduating from Southern Methodist University in Dallas with a degree in business administration. He holds master's degrees in management and economics and in national security strategy. He is a command pilot with more than 4,000 flight hours.

For more about General McKinley, go to