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Air Force 1-star general relieved for ‘shortfalls’ in personal conduct

Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Birch is a command pilot who has flown more than 750 combat hours.
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Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Birch
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul R. Birch offers remarks during the 36th Wing change of command ceremony, June 10, 2022, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. (Staff Sgt. Ryan Brooks/U.S. Air Force)

Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Birch has been relieved as commander of the 36th Wing at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for “shortfalls in his personal conduct prior to taking command,” according to an 11th Air Force news release that did not specify what these shortfalls were.

Birch was relieved on Monday by Air Force Lt. Gen. David Nahom, commander of the 11th Air Force, the news release says.

“I did not make this decision lightly,” Nahom said in a statement. “Commanders must always be held to the highest standards.”

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Eleventh Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Lauren Ott told Task & Purpose on Tuesday that she was unable to provide any details about the “shortfalls” in Birch’s personal conduct, but she confirmed that Birch was not the subject of a command directed investigation.

No further information was available on what exactly prompted Nahom to relieve Birch of command. The wording of the 11th Air Force’s news release was unusual. Typically, the military branches announce that commanders have been relieved “due to a loss of confidence” in their ability to lead without giving a specific reason why.

Birch assumed command of the 36th Wing in June 2022, according to his official biography. A 1996 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Birch is a command pilot with more than 2,100 flying hours, including more than 750 combat hours in support of missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He served as an F-15 instructor pilot between 2005 and 2008 and he has also flown KC-10 and KC-135 aerial tankers as well as U-2 spy planes and E-3B/G airborne warning and control system aircraft, his biography says.

Some of Birch’s previous assignments include serving as chief of staff at U.S. Air Forces Central, Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar; and chief of the Strategic Planning Integration Division at Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon, his biography says.

Birch also holds a doctorate degree in philosophy and military strategy from the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

When he took command of the 36th Wing last June, Birch told airmen that they needed to be prepared if China decides to start a war with the United States, Stars and Stripes reported at the time.

“The threat is relentless,” Birch said at the June 10, 2022, ceremony. “We need to enhance our … readiness and lethality in such a way that deters our adversary today and also postures us to fight decisively should that adversary — China — make a strategic miscalculation and elect to take on the United States, its allies or its partners.”

UPDATE: 03/21/2023; this story was updated on March 21 to include comments from 11th Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Lauren Ott.

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