Back to Officials


Name: Schwartz, Norton
Current Position: Former Chief of Staff

The chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, Norton A. “Norty” Schwartz, is both the first Jewish-American to run that branch and the first who is not a former fighter or bomber pilot. Schwartz was nominated by President George W. Bush shortly after Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired General Michael “Buzz” Moseley in June 2008 for Air Force blunders in mishandling nuclear weapons and for his unwillingness to do more to assist ground forces in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Schwartz will retire effective October 1 and will be replaced by Gen. Mark A. Welsh III.


As a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Schwartz and other service chiefs advise the Secretary of Defense, National Security Council and the President.


Norton Schwartz was born December 14, 1951, in Toms River, New Jersey, the son of a typewriter salesman. Ironically, Schwartz almost missed his Air Force career entirely, as he was accepted into the Air Force Academy only after a candidate ahead of him flunked his physical. After this close shave, Schwartz earned a B.A. in Political Science and International Affairs at the Academy in 1973, and later earned an MBA at Central Michigan University. He was also a member of the academy’s Jewish choir.


Commissioned a Second Lieutenant upon graduation, Schwartz spent nearly two years training as a pilot of cargo planes, landing his first overseas assignment as a C-130E aircraft commander at Clark Air Base in the Philippines from February 1975 to October 1977, where he participated in the April 1975 evacuation of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in the last days of the U.S.-backed government there.


He served as Commander of the 36th Tactical Airlift Squadron at McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma, Washington, from May 1986 to June 1988; Director of Plans and Policy at Special Operations Command Europe in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, Germany, from July 1989 to July 1991, where he served as Chief of Staff of the Joint Special Operations Task Force for Northern Iraq in the run-up to the Gulf War; Commander of the Special Operations Command, Pacific, at Camp H.M. Smith in Hawaii, from June 1997 to October 1998; and Commander of the Alaskan Command, Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region and the 11th Air Force, at Elmendorf AFB in Alaska, from September 2000 to October 2002.


He served for three years at the Joint Staff in Washington, D. C., first as director for operations from October 2002 to October 2004, and as director until August 2005, when he was named Commander of the U.S. Transportation Command at Scott AFB near Belleville, Illinois, where he served until August 2008. During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Schwartz worked with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld deciding when troops and equipment should move into the country.


Schwartz has logged more than 4,400 flying hours in a variety of aircraft. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.


Hel Schwartz is married to Suzie (Ptak) Schwartz.

-Matt Bewig


Official Biography

Schwartz a Chief to Mend Fences (by Bryant Jordan, USAToday)

Jewish General To Pilot Evangelical-Friendly Air Force (by Marc Perelman, Jewish Daily Forward)

New Chief Aims To Restore Air Force’s Reputation (by Tom Bowman, National Public Radio)


Bookmark and Share