County’s Top Marine to Be Transferred

Times Staff Writer

Maj. Gen. Donald E.P. Miller, Orange County’s top military leader as base and wing commander at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, is being transferred to Marine headquarters in Washington, officials said Thursday.

Miller, 54, was named commanding general of El Toro on June 30, 1986, after spending nearly two years as director of public affairs in Washington under Gen. P.X. Kelley, then-commandant of the Marines.

Promoted in 1987

In September, 1987, Miller was promoted to major general and given command of the Marine Corps 3rd Aircraft Wing, which has 16,000 men and women and 450 aircraft at El Toro, Tustin Marine Corps Helicopter Air Station, and Camp Pendleton. He will turn over the 3rd Aircraft Wing to Maj. Gen. Royal N. Moore Jr. on Aug. 18, officials said.


Moore, 54, born in Pasadena, is director of operations for the U.S. Pacific Command at Camp H.M. Smith in Hawaii.

Before that assignment, Moore was assistant deputy chief of staff for aviation at Marine headquarters in Washington. He also served as assistant wing commander for the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Cherry Point, N.C. He enlisted in the Marine Reserve in 1953.

Moore saw two tours of duty in Vietnam and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal for flying a total of 287 combat missions in a variety of aircraft, including the F-4 Phantom jet and the F-8U Crusader. He has flown more than 5,500 hours in 35 different tactical aircraft.

Likewise, Miller served two tours of duty in Vietnam and was wounded while flying a CH-37C transport helicopter over enemy territory.


Miller listed among his accomplishments the expansion of facilities at El Toro and Tustin, improved relations with the surrounding community and an improved aviation safety record.

Last year the aircraft wing had an overall accident rate of 2.1 per 100,000 hours of flying time. That rate made 1988 the safest year ever at El Toro and Tustin.

In his new position, Miller will have responsibility for reviewing strategies and war plans for the Marines and for political and military matters involving joint commands, officials said. Miller will report to Lt. Gen. Carl E. Mundy Jr., deputy chief of staff for plans, policy and operations.

Miller has been in and out of the El Toro aircraft wing for most of his career. He first came here in 1958 as a young fighter pilot. He often talks about how the orange groves and bean fields have been developed since then into neighborhoods, shopping malls and high-rise buildings.


During his tenure as El Toro and Tustin commander, Miller and his wife, Dixie, have been active in the community. His appointment calendar was often filled with evening and weekend social commitments.

Miller has also been an advocate for making the air stations partners with the surrounding community in weighing the interests of those who live around the base.

There was a time when Marines trained and flew jet fighters with little concern about the outside community, Miller has said. But that has changed.

“Look, we have to get out and talk to the people who live in the communities surrounding the air station. We have to face them eye to eye,” he said earlier this year. “I hear the jet noise at night and see the interference on my television when a plane goes over, and you can’t just sit out here and say, ‘They don’t know what they are talking about.’ We owe this to our neighbors.”


Miller is a preacher of sorts who spreads the Marine gospel. In one interview, he said: “What I have tried to articulate to people is (that) we are not really a bunch of village idiots. We don’t have any officers anymore who don’t have college educations.

“I think maybe we made the mistake of not being very open or forthcoming with the media by saying come and take a look at us. Go talk to some of these young men and women, both junior enlisted Marines and the young officers who are flying these $20-million machines. What you are going to find is a pretty articulate, pretty well-educated, pretty dedicated young man and woman.”

Retired Marine 1st Sgt. Jimmie Howard of San Diego, a winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, has known Miller for more than 20 years.

He said Miller has the ability to deal at all levels, whether it’s a private first class or the President of the United States.


“Don’t get me wrong,” Howard once said in an interview, “he is still military. . . . He can be stepping on your toes and make you think he’s shining your shoes.”