MANSFIELD – The 179th Airlift Wing is now being led by one of its own with an official change of command ceremony that took place on Sunday.
Brig. Gen. James Camp, Assistant Adjutant General for Air, Ohio, served as the presiding official as Col. Allison Miller passed the ceremonial guidon to Col. Todd Thomas, the 16th wing commander of the Air National Guard Unit.
Col. Thomas first came to the 179th in October 1989 as an undergraduate/C-130 Pilot trainee. Prior to this assignment, Thomas served as the 179th Airlift Wing Vice Commander since March 2017.
Gen. Camp called Thomas a "homegrown" commander, acknowledging how rare it is for someone to enter a unit and rise all the way through the ranks to wing commander.
"We should all view this change of command as simply a change of leadership and building mutual trust," Camp said. "As you ascend in command and take on the next challenge head on, that builds trust. As you increase in your position, you must trust your airmen to do their jobs."
The 179th Airlift Wing is comprised of approximately 1,000 personnel who operate and support C130H airlift missions across the globe. Personnel provide combat airlift, combat support and combat services support, as well as humanitarian relief efforts on a worldwide scale.
Col. Thomas graduated from the University of Iowa in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics. He was selected for, and attended Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance Air Force Base, Okla. from 1989-1990. Upon completion of C-130 flight training, he returned to the Mansfield 164th Tactical Airlift Squadron, flying the C-130H2 as a traditional guardsman. In September 2012, he became mission qualified as an instructor/evaluator C27J pilot. In December 2013, he completed re-qualification as an instructor/evaluator C130H pilot.
"Throughout the years I've had mentors and leaders and commanders take care of me and make it an easy transition to stay here," Thomas said. "It's been a great ride."
In 1998, Thomas became a full-time technician, initially supporting the Operations Group as the Chief of Aircrew Training and then in several positions throughout the Airlift Wing, Operations Group and Maintenance Group, to include: Vice Wing Commander, Maintenance Group Commander, Operations Group Commander, Operations Support Flight Commander, Chief of Standardization Evaluation, and Chief of Current Operations. He has participated in Operations Southern Watch, Joint Forge (Enterprise), Coronet Oak, Noble Eagle, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom; serving as aircrew member, staff officer, and commander at the squadron level.
Col. Thomas is a Command Pilot with more than 6,200 hours of flight time (including 465 combat hours) in the T-37, T-38, C-27J, and C-130H aircraft.
In his first address to the wing as commander, Thomas quoted Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy: "Be you."
"Let your personality show, live freely, don't worry about what others think, trust your instinct, believe in yourself," Thomas said. "We are we who are, that's the greatest characteristic of everyone in this wing."
Thomas said he was looking forward to the opportunity coming in the future of the 179th, including a 10-year installation plan for the base that includes systematic improvements every year.
Col. Miller made history as the first woman to lead an Ohio Air National Guard wing when she assumed command in February 2018. Leaving the 179th was a transition she said she was not ready to make, but ultimately she was grateful for the opportunity.
"It has no doubt been the highlight of my career to lead the 179th Airlift Wing," Miller said. "It will always be that, no matter where my career takes me."
A decorated pilot with over 2,300 military flying hours (including 400 combat hours) and 3,000 civilian flying hours, Miller served in Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, Inherent Resolve, and sat Alpha Alert in support of Homeland Defense.