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UT and the state it serves both owe their nickname to the willingness of residents to serve the nation when the need arises.

Now, in true Volunteer tradition, a UT alumnus and Knoxville native is set to assume one of the highest offices in the United States armed forces: US Air Force Lieutenant General Mike Holmes, a 1981 electrical engineering graduate from UT, will be promoted to four-star general today and assume leadership of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command.

Through that role, Holmes will guide US airpower around the world, including national security and the ongoing war on terror.

More than 83,000 service members, as well as civilian personnel, will fall under his command, which expands by an additional 51,000 during times that the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserves are mobilized.

Despite a post-UT career that has taken him from the area, Holmes retains a strong affection for UT and East Tennessee.

In a 2012 interview, he mentioned that he’d held nearly every job at Neyland Stadium: selling soft drinks and programs, playing with the band, playing junior varsity football, serving as a varsity walk-on player, and later performing a flyby in an F-15 fighter during pregame ceremonies.

Holmes’s ties to campus and Knoxville run deep. His family moved to Knoxville from Springfield, Tennessee, in 1962 so his father, Clyde, could run the UT Dairy Experiment Station on Alcoa Highway—now Cherokee Farms—while his mother worked at a florist on Cumberland Avenue.

He attended kindergarten at a school located on what is now UT’s campus before attending Fort Sanders Elementary and Tyson Junior High School, then graduating from West High School.

During his time in the Air Force, Holmes has logged more than 4,000 hours of flight, including more than 500 hours in combat.

His actions have earned him the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, and Bronze Star, as well as more than 25 other decorations for various roles in combat and service.

Holmes was nominated for the promotion by then President Obama in September and confirmed by the Senate in December.


David Goddard (865-974-0683,