A Change Of Guard
Commanding Role Assumed At Travis
By Kimberly K. Fu/Staff Writer
Flags waved, emotions swayed and tradition took center stage Sunday as hundreds joined Travis Air Force Base personnel in a base hangar to give one longtime commander a rousing sendoff into retirement and another a warm welcome to the Travis family.
With loved ones, distinguished guests and members of the 349th Air Mobility Wing looking on, retiring Brigadier Gen. Thomas M. Gisler Jr. took a final bow from his duties as the unit's commander and relinquished the reins to incoming Col. Maryanne Miller.
It was an action both sad and joyous, filled with humorous moments and sentiments shared not only by the honorees, but also those honoring them.
"It's awfully hard to say goodbye to a good friend," said Major Gen. Robert E. Duignan, commander of the 4th Air Force, March Air Force Base, of Gisler. He described the 35-year veteran as a "lifelong friend" who had risen through the ranks around the same time he did, and who had continued to excel in his career while, with the aid of wife Cleo, planted strong roots in the community.
"Tom, you've done a great job. And Cleo, you've been a great partner," Duignan said. The Gisler family, he emphasized, would be sorely missed.
But the unit, he added, would be placed into the hands of "a very experienced commander" who "knows how to take care of the people of her organization."
The 349th provides combat ready crews and support for the C-17, C-5, and KC-10 aircraft on the base.
"She did a superb job with the 932nd Airlift Wing (at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.)," Duignan said. "I'm sure she'll continue that tradition of excellence."
Miller has held numerous operations and staff positions at the Air Force headquarters and unit level and was activated for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. She was a distinguished graduate and commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corp program in 1981 from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, and is a command pilot with more than 4,500 flying hours in various aircraft.
Gisler also has held numerous operations and staff positions across the nation. He was commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corp program in 1972 from the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, and is also a command pilot with more than 4,500 flying hours in various aircraft.
Both leaders have received numerous major awards and decorations, and both took time Sunday to thank all the people in their lives who helped them to succeed.
Among her loved ones, Miller thanked her parents for their love, support, and lessons in the "true treasures in life - faith, family and friends."
The commander also thanked the members of the 349th for their welcome and promised that her top priorities this year would be "you and your readiness (for combat). ... Our mission is clear, to provide the world's best mutual support" to the Air Force and allies.
Gisler gifted his family not only with his thanks, but with flowers. Each member also received special Air Force awards ranging from medals to pins to certificates of appreciation.
Gisler described Travis as "America's Gateway to the Pacific, the place I began my military career and the place I will conclude my career." His profession, he continued, was the fulfillment of all his boyhood hopes and dreams, a career filled with travel and adventure and, most of all, friendship.
"The world has turned over many times since I took the patriotic oath," he said. "I have been beyond blessed to lead and be led by so many good men and women. ... I will truly miss all of you, the people of the 349th."
In closing, he wished the incoming commander well.
"Maryanne, I wish you godspeed. You're getting the best wing out there," Gisler said. "I pray that you will be blessed with peace and prosperity and that you will take this wing to new heights."
Gisler, officials said, plans on remaining in the local area and will take some time to spend with his family.
Kimberly K. Fu can be reached at email@example.com.
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