The new commander in chief of Israel’s Air Force has Alabama ties.
Jaffa native Amir Eshel graduated from Auburn University at Montgomery in 1991, after also attending the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery. He was appointed commander on Feb. 5 after serving as head of the Israel Defense Forces Planning Directorate.
Eshel will replace current IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Ido Nechushtan, who is retiring in May after four years manning the post, Israel Hayom reported.
“Thank you all for your congratulations. I am aware of the magnitude of the responsibility and intend to do everything in my power to be deemed worthy,” was all Eshel was willing to say upon his return home that day.
In 1977 Eshel was drafted into the IAF pilot’s course and completed training in 1979. He participated in the Lebanon War, then commanded a squadron at Tel Nof. He later became commander of Tel Nof.
In 2003, he led a formation of three Israeli F-15s on a flyover of Auschwitz while in Poland for the Radom Air Show, which was part of the Polish Air Force’s 85th anniversary.
The son of Holocaust survivors, Eshel stated during the flyover “We pilots of the Air Force, flying in the skies above the camp of horrors, arose from the ashes of the millions of victims and shoulder their silent cries, salute their courage and promise to be the shield of the Jewish people and its nation Israel.” A picture from the flyover remains in his office.
In 2006 he became chief of staff for the Israeli Air Force, and the 2006 Lebanon War took place while he was in that role.
Eshel also holds a Masters in Political Science from Haifa University from the National Security College.
His appointment comes at a time when the Air Force may be called upon for a possible strike against Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and in a Jerusalem Post interview he also warned about the possibility of Syria’s chemical weapons winding up in the hands of Hezbollah.
Most online biographies of Eshel, including on the IDF website, list him as a graduate of Auburn University, but he actually attended the branch campus in Montgomery.