White Sands leader relinquishes command at ceremony
By STEVE RAMIREZ | Las Cruces (N.M.) Sun-News | Published: June 7, 2014
WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. — Maj. Gen. Gwen Bingham gave up command Friday of White Sands Missile Range. The unanimous consensus among Army and community leaders across southern New Mexico is that Bingham is the example that respect is earned and not given.
Upon delivering her goodbyes, Bingham received a standing ovation from several hundred people who attended a relinquishment of command ceremony Friday at WSMR's Frontier Club. Her successor, Brig. Gen. Timothy Coffin, is expected to take over in July.
Bingham's "performance has been superb as she has commanded the past 21 months," said Maj. Gen. Peter D. Utley, commanding general of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, the Army agency that oversees WSMR's operations. "Her impact was felt by foreign governments, state governments, and the local, community governments she has worked with.
"She understands that her presence, being a role model and standard bearer is significant."
WSMR spokeswoman Lisa Blevins, who often worked closely with Bingham since she took over command at WSMR in September 2012, summed up the feelings of many.
"This is bittersweet," Blevins said. "We're all a little sad she's leaving WSMR, but we're excited for her new assignment."
Bingham was humble and reflective as she recalled her time at WSMR.
"The days, weeks and months have come and gone too quickly," Bingham said. "The troops off and on this parade (ground) route, and all of those civilians in our nearby communities represent the good of the Army."
Bingham's personality has rallied civic leaders across southern New Mexico and far west Texas to renew support for the military. With the motto of "Together Everyone Achieves More," simply known as the TEAM concept, Bingham has helped forge the establishment of community partnership in Las Cruces, Alamogordo and El Paso that has allowed civic and military leaders at WSMR, Holloman Air Force Base and Fort Bliss to communicate more frequently on mutual issues of interest.
Bingham said she will miss that interaction and praised community leaders for their cooperation and participation.
"I've learned never to say 'good-bye,' only 'so long until next time,'" she said. "You're simply amazing, and I thank all of you. Always know you have touched our lives (Bingham and husband P.J. Bingham). We will never forget you."
Bingham, who will move on to her new assignment as the commander of the Army's Tank-Automotive and Armament Command, in Warren, Mich., will be succeeded by civilian Paul D. Mann, who has served as WSMR's executive director for about nine months.
Mann said Bingham's belief in the TEAM concept will not — be taken lightly. "TEAM is not a dialogue, it is a core value," Mann said. "... I pledge to do everything possible to continue what Gen. Bingham has started."
Mann described himself as "a work in progress," and choked back emotion as he spoke of the family support he has received to reach this milestone in his professional career.
"My mother would be very proud," said Mann, as his voice began to crack. "My three sons have inspired great joy in my life. I've been married for 34 years, and my wife, Yvonne, is a saint."
Mann added WSMR's work force should continue to build on its legacy of excellence.
Mann will be WSMR's leader temporarily until Coffin's arrival.