Schissler takes helm of 374th Airlift Wing
July 10, 2003
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Less than a day into his new job, Col. Mark Schissler already has a schedule typical of a base commander.
After Tuesday morning’s change-of-command ceremony, Schissler greeted Yokota residents during a reception, sat down to an interview with the press, then was off to meet the troops — smiling and upbeat all the while.
Schissler replaces Brig. Gen. Mark Stearns as commander of Yokota’s 374th Airlift Wing, the Pacific theater’s oldest airlift wing.
Stearns earned a general’s star here and Tuesday was awarded the Legion of Merit for his contributions.
Schissler acknowledged his predecessor’s accomplishments, saying he believes his biggest challenge will be “to maintain the kind of record that they already have. I take over a first-class wing, so I need to keep them at the top of their game.”
Schissler comes to Yokota from commanding the 463rd Airlift Group at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.
This is his first stint as a permanent wing commander. Last year, he was an expeditionary wing commander in Oman during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Schissler says he’s thrilled to be at Yokota, but never expected to get the call to command a wing so soon.
“I was genuinely surprised,” he said.
Schissler was commissioned through Officer Training School 22 years ago after earning a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from University of St. Thomas in Houston.
He also taught for about two years at an all-boys Catholic high school.
“During those two years, I looked at what kind of a career I wanted to pursue,” he said. “The Air Force made me a very nice offer that would allow me to fly.”
Because he wore glasses, Schissler said he never thought he’d get that opportunity.
But the Air Force let him come in as a navigator. During his career, Schissler has logged more than 3,300 hours as a navigator in a C-130, one of four types of aircraft assigned to Yokota.
He said he considers his history a lesson for people who believe they lack the right background for the Air Force.
“The Air Force will provide all you need,” he said.
After he joined the service, Schissler continued his liberal arts education, earning master’s degrees in human resource development and pastoral studies.
The latter is one of his proudest accomplishments, he said, noting he’s active in his church.
Yokota’s military leaders, enlisted troops and local Japanese officials welcomed Schissler during a change-in-command ceremony Tuesday morning.
Schissler thanked Lt. Gen. Thomas Waskow, commander of U.S. Forces Japan and the 5th Air Force, for the vote of confidence.
The new commander said later he didn’t know how many people had a hand in bringing him to Yokota, but “I know it had to meet his [Waskow’s] approval.
“The Pacific Command looked at the choices that were out there … I feel very honored to have been chosen from some very capable people.”
Schissler comes to Yokota with his wife and two children.
He said he doesn’t plan immediate changes but will strive “to take care of people and try and improve the relations with the Japanese hosts here.”
An avid runner, he admits he wouldn’t mind appearing on the cover of Runner’s World magazine.
He also describes himself as a person with high standards.
“But I like to laugh, and I like to enjoy life without taking myself too seriously,” he said. “Probably one of the things I enjoy doing most is leading a team of people like I have a chance to do now.”