Gov. Mike Leavitt presided over a military ceremony Saturday in which command of the Utah National Guard passed from Maj. Gen. John L. Matthews to Maj. Gen. James M. Miller.
The change took place during the Guard's annual family day, where the governor and both generals reviewed an estimated 6,000 of the state's 7,200 Army and Air National Guard troops.More often than not, Utah's adjutant generals have an Army background. Matthews has been an exception, a fighter pilot rising through the ranks of the Air Guard to take command of the state military organization under the direction of the governor, who acts as commander in chief of the National Guard.
Miller is an Army Guard officer, the former commander of I Corps Artillery and a former deputy commanding general at the Army's Training and Doctrine Command.
A common element to both men is their work in education. Matthews was the principal of Timpview High School in Provo when former Gov. Scott Matheson appointed him as the adjutant general in 1982. Miller recently retired from his position at Southern Utah University where he was dean of education.
Long before Leavitt became governor and chose Miller as the state's adjutant general, Miller was Leavitt's fifth-grade teacher at South Elementary in Cedar City. Miller later recruited Leavitt into the National Guard.
Guard members stood in ranks while many of their family members watched from bleachers alongside the parade field as the change of command ceremony took place. Matthews' blue, two-star command flag was furled and Miller's red, two-star command flag was unfurled. The governor presented both men with medals and presented their wives with bouquets of roses.
Matthews retirement is not effective until the last day of September, but the change of command was official as soon as the governor, a former Guard officer, saluted both men at the end of the ceremony.
"I believe this is an outstanding organization made up of outstanding soldiers and airmen," Matthews said in a brief address to the troops. Utah's Guard is properly housed, equipped and trained, he told Miller. And to the Guard members he said, "I continue to look forward to your success. Support Gen. Miller like you supported me."
Miller said he accepted the command with gratitude. The selfless service of Guard members and their families has led to the success of the National Guard, he said.
"Today we change command, but we do not change our commitment to excellence," Leavitt said. "Today, in a simple quiet way, we change command and simply say: `Carry on.' "
Miller becomes Utah's 16th adjutant general. He said his first official duty would be a customary greeting with state officers at Camp Williams' officers club. And after that: "Staff meeting."