Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. --
Yuma’s chapter of the Marine Corps Aviation Association held a change of command at the Sonoran Pueblo here June 3, 2009, where it revealed a display honoring the first American to pilot the AV-8A Harrier.
Prior to the change of command, Col. Clyde Woltman, the chapter’s outgoing commanding officer, unveiled the display dedicated to the late Lt. Gen. Thomas H. Miller Jr. after whom the chapter is named.
The display features a photo and biography of Miller, a brief history of the Corps’ involvement with the AV-8A Harrier, as well as the Corps’ first flight log for the Harrier and aircraft models from Miller’s personal collection.
The majority of the funds for the $9,000 display were donated to the squadron by Northrop Grumman, a military aircraft designer and manufacturer, while the rest was gained through fundraisers held by the squadron and sponsored by local businesses.
The squadron collaborated with the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Flying Leatherneck Museum at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., as well as Miller’s family to create the display.
Following the unveiling, Woltman relinquished the billet of Tom Miller Squadron commanding officer to Col. Gary Thomas, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 commanding officer.
The MCAA Yuma chapter, which currently has approximately 100 members, was founded in 1987 and re-designated as the Tom Miller Squadron in February 2008, shortly after Miller passed away.
Since its inception as the Tom Miller Squadron, MAWTS-1, MAG-13 and the air station have been heavily involved with MCAA and the squadron.
“The squadron provides a professional atmosphere for gatherings and social events as well as an avenue for Marines to interact and engage with retired Marines and pilots,” said Austin.
Thomas plans to continue the professional military education, gatherings and annual events, (such as the Tom Miller Squadron Golf Tournament,) which they have done in the past.
“It’s a great honor to be involved with the squadron,” said Thomas. “I think it is wonderful that the squadron was named after Lt. Gen. Miller, because of all of his accomplishments.”
Not only was Miller the first American to fly the AV-8A Harrier, but he also set the 500 kilometer closed-course world speed record at 1,216.78 mph in an F-4H-1 Phantom at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in 1960.
Miller served as the deputy chief of staff for aviation at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C., prior to his death in November 2007.
The Tom Miller Squadron’s commanding officer changes every year, rotating between the MAG-13, MAWTS-1 and station commanding officers, according to Austin.