Chief of the National Guard Bureau: Who Is Joseph Lengyel?
Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel was elevated to lead the National Guard Bureau on August 3, 2016. With the job came membership in the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Lengyel is from an Air Force family. His father, Lauren, was also an Air Force pilot and was shot down over Vietnam in August 1967 while flying an RF-4 Phantom reconnaissance plane. He was captured and held in a North Vietnamese prison camp until 1973.
The younger Lengyel went to North Texas State University on an ROTC scholarship, graduating in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He earned an MBA from the University of Tennessee in 2011.
With his bachelor’s degree came a commission in the Air Force Lengyel went to flight school, eventually being assigned to fly F-16 fighters. He served in South Korea and Germany, among other duty stations.
In 1991, Lengyel left active duty to become a pilot with Delta Air Lines and joined the Texas Air National Guard. He continued to work his way up the ranks and in 2004 served a stint as commander of the 455th Expeditionary Operations Group at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. Later that year, Lengyel took an extended leave from Delta and returned to Germany after he applied and was accepted as the Air National Guard adviser to the Commander, U.S. Air Force in Europe.
In 2006, Lengyel was named commander of the Air National Guard readiness center at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington. In addition to those duties, in 2008 he was made deputy director of the Air National Guard.
The following year, Lengyel was made military assistant deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and programs for the Air Force. In 2010, he was made vice commander of the 1st Air Force and in 2011 began serving as defense attaché in Cairo, Egypt.
Lengyel returned to the United States in 2012 to serve as vice chief of the National Guard Bureau, a job he held until taking it over in 2016.
Early in his tenure as chief, Lengyel was faced with the controversy over re-enlistment bonus clawbacks from National Guard members, particularly from California. Recruiters had offered the bonuses in return for remaining in the Guard, often involving a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan. Later, the Guard said the bonuses were given out fraudulently and took back money from those who had served. Lengyel said that Congress had been informed of the clawbacks as early as 2012 but had declined to pass legislation that would have stopped them.
Lengyel’s wife, Sally, is a former Air Force officer. They have three children—Michael, who’s serving in the Air Force; Joe; and Katie. Lengyl’s brother Greg is a major general in the Air Force, serving as deputy commanding general of Joint Special Operations Command.
To Learn More:
Joseph L. Lengyel (by Meredith Moriak Wright, North Texan)
Congress Knew About Bonus Claw Backs, Says General (by Kristina Wong, The Hill)
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