Monday, June 28, 2010

Florida Times-Union: New general looks to continue Guard’s momentum

New general looks to continue Guard’s momentum
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By Timothy J. Gibbons

Maj. Gen. Emmett Titshaw Jr. knew he wanted to fly jet fighters since he saw them in the skies over his childhood home on Jacksonville’s Northside.
Forty years after joining the Florida National Guard, Titshaw doesn’t sit in a cockpit much anymore, but the work he does now is just as satisfying.
“You reach a certain point where you feel it is a responsibility and an obligation to leverage everything you’ve learned for the benefit of this organization, this state and this nation,” Titshaw said as he readied to officially take over as the adjutant general of the Florida National Guard.
After relieving Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett in a ceremony at Camp Blanding on Saturday, the general will lead the 12,000-member Guard and advise the governor on military issues.
In pursuit of flight 40 years ago, Titshaw, then a student at Auburn University, planned on joining the regular Air Force. Then he got a call suggesting he join the Guard, where he was more likely to end up in a jet.
After flight training in Mississippi, the pilot spent the next 20 years flying with the fighter wing based at Jacksonville International Airport, eventually rising to command the group.
Tours at the Guard’s headquarters in St. Augustine followed as well as several years at the Pentagon.
“I understand the big picture now,” he said. “Often from a state perspective, you don’t understand the process. I know the players. I know them by name and by friendship.”
At the same time he was serving in Washington, Titshaw managed to keep his feet planted in Florida. His in-state experience includes serving as commander of the state’s Air National Guard and commander of the joint task force dealing with Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. In 2008 he left Washington for Florida to help the state deal with Hurricane Ike.
Having experience with unexpected disasters has already proven useful as the Guard is dealing with the oil spill off its western coast.
“We’re multitasking,” he said. “We’re trained to do that. We don’t get focused on one thing.”
His predecessor Burnett, the longest-serving Air Force officer in the country, was the first Air Guard member to serve as adjutant general, leading both the air and ground parts of the guard.
During his nine years as adjutant general, he oversaw the largest deployment of Florida soldiers since World War II as well as sending troops for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Being able to deploy so many soldiers and airmen required a cultural change to focus on training and readiness, Burnett said.
“Young soldiers and airmen want to do the job they are trained to do,” he said. “All we had to do as leadership was provide the resources, training and equipment.”
As the retiring general prepares to spend time with his wife and grandchildren, he said he looks back at his career most proud of the way his troops rose to meet those challenges thrown at them.
As well as dealing with two wars, 14 hurricanes, wildfires and tornadoes, Guard units have managed to rack up unprecedented ratings on national inspections, including the highest-ranked Army air unit in the country.
“What I’m really most proud of is changing the culture to an institutionalize culture of excellence,” said Burnett, who’s also from Jacksonville.,
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