by TSgt. Dan Heaton
127th Wing Public Affairs
6/4/2011 - SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- Col. Michael T. Thomas has assumed command of the 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard.
Thomas, a KC-135 pilot, took command during a ceremony at Selfridge Air National Guard Base on Saturday. Thomas replaced Brig. Gen. Michael L. Peplinski as the wing commander. Peplinski, who had served as the wing commander since December 2005, retired after more than 32 years of military service.
"Without a doubt Col. Thomas is the right guy at the right time to lead the 127th Wing of the future," said Major Gen. Robert H. Johnston, commander of the Michigan Air National Guard, who presided over the ceremony.
As the 127th Wing commander, Thomas leads a force of approximately 1,700 Citizen-Airmen at Selfridge. The wing flies two types of aircraft, the KC-135 Stratotanker, an aerial refueler with a global reach, and the A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog, which is the Air Force's premier air-to-ground fighter.
Thomas has a long affiliation with the Air Force at Selfridge. After initially enlisting as a member of the Air Force Reserve at the base in 1976, he was commissioned in 1983 and flew C-130 Hercules aircraft with a combat rescue unit that was then stationed at Selfridge. He transitioned into the Michigan Air National Guard in 1994. In 2004, he was the deployed commander of a C-130 squadron in Uzbekistan in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Selected as the 127th Air Refueling Group commander in 2005, Thomas was responsible for the unit in transition from the C-130 tactical airlift mission to the KC-135 global aerial refueling mission. The conversion concluded in 2010 after four major command inspections with outstanding results. In January of this year, he was named the 127th Wing's vice commander, a position he held until Peplinski's retirement.
"Our 127th Wing is built on a solid foundation," Thomas told the assembled Airmen of the wing during the ceremony. "Change has led to opportunity; opportunity has led to success. Success breeds success...and we will capitalize on it."
As the wing commander, Thomas leads the host unit at Selfridge, which is home to 44 tenant commands, representing all branches of military service and several agencies of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security.
The wing is in the process of developing a 50-year comprehensive land use plan for the base, as Air National Guard leaders seek ways to maximize the assets of the base as a location for "federal-friendly" government operations.
"We now have the opportunity to look into the future and strategically build our base for the future," Thomas said.
Peplinski is retiring after more than 32 years of combined service in the Air Force and what he often refered to as his "Hometown Air Force" - the Michigan Air National Guard. A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Peplinski is a command pilot with more than 3,200 hours of flight time in the F-16 Falcon. Peplinski is also qualified as a KC-135 pilot. In 2004, Peplinski served as the commander during a deployment of Selfridge Airmen and F-16 aircraft to Iraq. The deployment was the first time American F-16 fighters operated from a base inside Iraq. He served as the vice wing commander at Selfridge upon his return from Iraq and in 2005 was named the wing commander. In addition to the wing's conversion from C-130 to KC-135 aircraft, the wing at the same time converted its 127th Operations Group from operating F-16s to the A-10.
"Brig. Gen. Peplinski has led this wing for the past 6 years in a superior fashion, through some of the most challenging events to include two aircraft conversions and seven major inspections," Johnston said during the ceremony. "He has never lost sight of this base and the mission....to keep these Airmen standing ready."
Under Peplinski's command, the 127th Wing participated in three Aerospace Expeditionary Force deployments in support of operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, safely deployed over 3,500 airmen, and executed more than 14,000 flying hours without mishap.