Wright Patterson Air Force Base’s 88th Air Base Wing, the unit that acts as “landlord” to the sprawling Air Force base, is preparing to welcome a new commander.
Col. Thomas Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, will relinquish command of the wing to Col. Patrick Miller in a private change-of-command ceremony June 12 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
Sherman has been selected to become the principal military assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon.
Miller today serves as vice commander of the Air Force Installation & Mission Support Center at Air Force Materiel Command, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
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Miller is a 1997 distinguished graduate of the Reserve Officer Training Corps at the Pennsylvania State University. A career civil engineer, he has held a variety of leadership, staff and command positions with experience at the squadron, wing, major command and Air Staff levels, as well as in five deployed environments.
The change-of-command ceremony will be live-streamed on the Wright-Patterson Facebook page at www.facebook.com/wpafb.
The change of command comes at a crucial time for Wright-Patterson, which remains Ohio’s largest single-site employer, with about 30,000 military and civilian employees.
The base is slowly returning to full capacity. Since late March, in response to the historic pandemic, only about a tenth of the base’s workforce has physically worked on the installation, with the rest of the workforce working from other locations.
Earlier this month, commanders and directors were allowed to bring up to 20% of their assigned workforce back to work centers and offices to complete “mission essential tasks.”
Base leaders expected that to mean about 3,000 to 4,000 additional people will be on base in the first phase of reopening.
In an interview earlier this month, Sherman declined to put a timeline on the first phase’s duration. The commander said base leaders have tried to remain in “lockstep” with Ohio government and the wider community while still staying in contact with the base population during the pandemic response.
Sherman led weekly virtual “town meetings” on Facebook to keep residents and workers updated.
“The United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson never stopped working,” Sherman said in that interview. “We were able to incorporate technology and virtual capabilities, and we were able to really remarkably continue the mission of the U.S. Air Force, just in a very different manner.”
“Our employees were incredibly resilient in adapting to the technological methods, virtual work, telework and so forth,” he added. “The mission of the Air Force continued to move forward while the COVID-19 crisis was around all of us. It’s a remarkable testament to the resiliency and ingenuity of the Air Force to keep that mission going.”
Sherman’s tenure as base commander also was notable for an August 2018 active shooter scare that brought law enforcement units to the base from across the Dayton area.
After an investigation into the incident, Sherman said the takeaways included focusing on proper training, communicating with other groups on the base about when to shelter and when to come out of shelter and talking with state, local and federal first responders to better understand their roles.
On the day of the incident, a Wright-Patt medical employee called 911 to report that a jogger has been injured on base. At the same time, an active shooter exercise on the Kittyhawk area of the base was occurring.
In the chaotic response to the incident, a military service member discharged multiple rounds of ammunition from an assault rifle.
The discharge of the M4 assault rifle by a Security Forces Squadron member was being handled by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the base later said.