Monday, June 28, 2010

St. Augustine Record: Changing of the Guard -- Gen. Burnett retires, Gen. Titshaw takes over command


CAMP BLANDING -- Florida National Guard's adjutant general, Major Gen. Douglas Burnett, on Saturday ended his 47-year Air Guard career and turned command of his 12,000 soldiers and airmen over to the incoming adjutant general, Major General Emmett R. Titshaw Jr.

At the ceremony, Burnett handed the Guard colors to Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, who then handed it to Titshaw to symbolize the transfer of command.

In his first remarks to the troops, Titshaw thanked Burnett for his "leadership, mentorship and friendship" and because Burnett had "built and maintained a culture of excellence" in the Guard.

"We take on a sacred obligation with our Guard family," Titshaw said.

The Guard planned months in advance for hurricane season, and Florida Guard troops -- having mobilized before every Florida hurricane and Katrina too -- are now professional at dealing with them, he said.

"Deep Horizon was a bit of a wild card," he said. "We have 90 Guardsmen deployed in that area now.

"When the governor says he needs more soldiers, we'll be there."

Titshaw, a Jacksonville native, enlisted and was commissioned in 1970, completed fighter pilot training in 1972 and was assigned to 159th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in Jacksonville. He served many assignments with 125th Fighter Interceptor Group, later 125th Fighter Wing.

His late father, a U.S. Marine, fought at Iwo Jima.

Titshaw and his wife, Gretchen, live in St. Augustine.

Before the ceremony, he said, "Nowhere in my career did I envision that I'm standing here today. I always thought I'd fly fighters and eventually become a squadron commander."

The ceremony included one of the largest troop reviews held at Blanding in recent years, an estimated 500 soldiers and airmen representing at least two dozen units.

A Guard artillery unit gave Kottcamp a 19-gun salute. Judy Burnett received red roses; Gretchen Titshaw, yellow.

Burnett said, "Gov. Crist is in the Panhandle today, making sure he gives a message of hope, optimism and recovery."

Then the two generals -- with Brig. General Don Tyre, commander of the troops -- and Kottcamp inspected the massed soldiers and airmen.

Honored guests attending included St. Johns County commissioners Ron Sanchez, Mark Miner and Ray Quinn; state Rep. Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine; U.S. Rep. Jennifer Carroll (R-Jacksonville); retired Maj. Gen. Gregory O. Harrison, former adjutant general; adjutant generals from Kentucky, South Dakota and the Virgin Islands; Leroy Collins Jr., head of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs; and Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Burnett said 12,500 men and women serving with the Guard had been activated since Sept. 11, 2001, and 3,500 are currently on active duty in Southwest Asia. He said that being a Guard soldier or airman is not a job but "an issue of the heart."

A Jacksonville native, he enlisted into the Guard after high school and was commissioned in 1969, attending pilot training in Texas. He became a full-time alert pilot for 125th Fighter Group, flying F-102s and military transport aircraft.

Off duty, he flew commercial airliners for United and Pan American. He served 81 years as adjutant general.

"We hold our soldiers in the field to the highest standards, so leadership must hold themselves accountable to get the job done," he said. "We have achieved much. The nation's at war. We've got to get it right."

Titshaw echoed Burnett's pride.

"We have the best National Guard in the country, and that means in the world," he said.

No comments: