June 30, 2010 in City

New wing leader notes base’s ‘reputation for excellence’

By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photo

Lt. Gen. Robert Allardice leads Brig. Gen. Robert Thomas and Col. Paul Guemmer as they arrive for the 92nd Air Refueling Wing change of command ceremony Tuesday at Fairchild Air Force Base. The ceremony formally transferred command to Guemmer.
(Full-size photo)

The new commander of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild Air Force Base hangs two quotes prominently on his office wall.

“These are times that try men’s souls,” by Thomas Paine, the 18th century American revolutionary writer and pamphleteer; and “Are you ready? Let’s roll,” by Todd Beamer, a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93 who tried to stop the terrorists who hijacked his plane on Sept. 11, 2001.

Col. Paul Guemmer said the quotes remind him of the “tremendous responsibility we (the military) have to the United States today.”

Guemmer took over from Brig. Gen. Robert Thomas on Tuesday at Fairchild.

The change of “king of the base” at Fairchild happens about every two years, said 1st Lt. Casey Osborne, a spokesman for the 92nd Air Refueling Wing.

Hundreds of military personnel, civilians and officials from nearby cities gathered outside the base’s aircraft hangers Tuesday during the formal change-of-command ceremony.

“Fairchild has a reputation for excellence, mission focus and great community relations,” Guemmer said. “This is the command assignment I have always dreamed about.”

For Thomas, who was promoted to brigadier general last month, the departure was bittersweet.

“My first trip off the base after arriving (in September 2008) was to pick apples with the mayor of Spokane,” said Thomas, adding that in all his years of military service, he’s been the most honored to serve at Fairchild.

“We will miss his cool-headed, upbeat way,” said Chaplain Lt. Col. Kelvin Gardner.

Thomas is headed to Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., where he will be in charge of the 15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force.

“My career has presented me with countless challenges and opportunities, and I anticipate this next position will be another great adventure for me and my family,” Thomas said. “With that said, I will sorely miss Fairchild and Spokane and can only hope the future will be as fulfilling as this one has been.”

Guemmer said he’s been asking for the assignment at Fairchild for years, “but for some reason the Air Force kept sending me to some crazy East Coast city on the Potomac River. After four years in Washington, D.C., the Air Force finally got it right.”

The new commander, who holds a bachelor’s and three master’s degrees, comes from a position where he helped head strategic planning for the military branch.

During his speech Tuesday, Guemmer laid out his goals and expectations as a commander at Fairchild:

“Continue to foster the relationship between Spokane and the base.

“Take care of the mission. We are a nation at war. My expectation is complete professionalism – right, safely and by the book.

“Take care of each other.

“Take care of yourself and your family.”

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