New leader named for crucial Wright-Patt AFB command

Richardson, nominated Tuesday by president, also is part of jury pool in Cooley sexual assault case

The Air Force has identified the next commander of Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base — and that officer was ordered last year to be part of a jury in the historic court-martial of a two-star general, a former commander of another key Wright-Patterson mission.

President Joe Biden Tuesday nominated Lt. Gen. Duke Z. Richardson for a fourth star, promotion to the rank of general.

Richardson has been nominated to serve as AFMC commander from his current job as military deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics at the Pentagon.

If confirmed by the Senate as a four-star general, Richardson would be the highest ranking officer on Wright-Patterson, commanding one of the most important Air Force commands.

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Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr. is the current AFMC commander. The Air Force has not publicly announced any future movement or action regarding Gen Bunch, an AFMC spokesman said.

The next step for Richardson is a Senate confirmation process.

Richardson is no stranger to AFMC or Wright-Patterson. From July 1997 to June 1999, he served in the F-15 System Program Office at Wright-Patt. He was also Designated Acquisition Commander Staff Officer at the Aeronautical Systems Center, also at Wright-Patterson, in 1999 and 2000.

AFMC manages more than one-third of the total Air Force budget, managing and dispersing funds across multiple installations, supporting research and development and many other tasks.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is the largest single-site employer in Ohio, with more than 32,000 military and civilian employees.

Cooley jury pool

Nearly a year ago, Richardson was named to the court-martial jury pool for Maj. Gen. William Cooley, a former commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson.

A sexual assault charge, with three specifications under Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, was referred against Cooley, as a result of an alleged August 2018 off-duty incident with a civilian adult woman in Albuquerque, N.M. The woman is not a Department of Defense employee, the Air Force has said.

In an Air Force April 2021 special order, Richardson was ordered to participate as a court-martial jury member, with the proviso that his current commander would concur.

An AFMC spokesman confirmed Richardson’s nomination Wednesday.

The spokesman also released a statement saying: “At this time, Lt. Gen. Richardson is a potential court member and has not been selected as a juror. The Air Force will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that Maj. Gen. Cooley has a fair, and conflict-free trial, which of course includes the court member composition.”

Jurors must be senior to the accused in either rank or date of promotion.

The general court-martial trial of Cooley is still scheduled to begin at Wright-Patterson on April 18, Cooley’s attorney, Daniel Conway said.

The court-martial had been scheduled for January 2022, but was continued until April, with the Air Force citing COVID concerns.

Don Christensen, a former chief prosecutor for the Air Force and the president of the group Protect Our Defenders, told the Dayton Daily News in 2020 that if the Cooley case went to court-martial, he will be the first general officer in Air Force history to face such a proceeding.

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