TOP STORY >> Change of command
Leader staff writer
Brig. Gen. Kip Self took command of Little Rock Air Force Base Friday, even as transport planes from around the world ferried tons of Hurricane Katrina relief supplies to the base for distribution further south.
With the symbolic passing of the 314th Airlift Wing’s colors from Brig. Gen. Joseph Reheiser to Major Gen. Edward R. Ellis, and from Ellis to Self, the command passed in front of the new C-130J hangar before hundreds of airmen, guests and officials.
Ellis, commander of the 19th Air Force, presided over the ceremony and also awarded Reheiser with the Legion of Merit with an oak leaf cluster for the leadership he asserted in bringing many awards and honors to the base during his two-year tenure.
Self steps in as the base serves as the hub for an intensive international relief effort, with planes from NATO and nations around the world rushing supplies and equipment to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Having just arrived on base, Self said he had confidence in the airmen in his command to handle the ongoing effort, which includes landing and unloading the planes and loading the cargo onto 18-wheelers.
“You show up, learn, and trust your people,” Self said. “First you learn, then you lead.”
Reheiser is headed to Yokota, Japan Air Base, where he will serve as vice commander of the 5th Air Force.
While Reheiser served the customary two-year rotation as Little Rock Air Force Base commander, both Self and Ellis said the 314th Airlift Wing’s accomplishments on his watch were anything but ordinary.
Ellis praised Reheiser’s leadership of the international relief effort, his wing’s domination of the Airlift rodeo, including best airdrop crew and best maintenance crew, the base’s excellent rating and its being named readiness base of the year.
Reheiser and his wife Donna were also honored as best wing commander and spouse in the Air Education and Training Command.
Before relinquishing command, Reheiser reviewed his troops one final time, passing one group saying that although it was graded satisfactory, he considered it “the best maintenance group in the Air Force.”
Reheiser and Self graduated in the same U.S. Air Force Academy class.
Self comes to Arkansas after serving as the deputy director of operations, with headquarters at Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, where he oversaw 14 divisions and eight operating locations producing policy procedures and lead command guidance to sustain and improve many outfits for America’s Global Reach mission.
He has held a variety of flying assignments as a helicopter and C-141 instructor pilot.
His staff assignments include political-military planner on the joint staff and country director in the office of the Secretary of Defense.
He has commanded the 16th Airlift Squadron and the 621st Air Mobility Operations Group.
Self was deployed as director of mobility forces in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and during Operation Iraqi Freedom, he was commander of expeditionary air forces at Kuwait City.
He is a command pilot with more than 4,000 hours in a variety of aircraft. Self said he has never flown a C-130, but looks forward to the opportunity.
His awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster and Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters.
He and the former Sue M. Battle have three children.
In his remarks, Ellis told Self: “There may be other communities that support their bases as well (as the local community does) but none better.” Of Reheiser, he said, “Farewell to a great leader. You should be proud of the leadership you exhibited.”
He also said Donna Reheiser’s fingerprints are all over the base and community. “You’ll be missed too,” he said. “Self is the perfect replacement, he’s a combat-tested warrior and leader,” Ellis said.
“He moved three divisions and 150,000 marines through Kuwait. He’s no stranger to big responsibility. He’s a leader cut from the same mold as Joe Reheiser.”
Praising his airmen for all they had accomplished over the past two years, including the Airlift rodeo accomplishments, Reheiser said, “You need only look at the ramp today to see you’re still in the arena. I couldn’t be prouder.”
In his remarks, Self said he asked his wife what he should talk about. “About two minutes,’ she said, ‘then get off stage,’” he said.