By Laura Almaraz
One of the most charismatic and influential leaders in the history of White Sands Missile Range now has a permanent place on the installation. The legacy of Maj. Gen. Niles J. Fulwyler continues as the Headquarters Building was dedicated in his honor June 5.
The building was dedicated to the 16th Commander of WSMR in recognition of his accomplishments during his service as commander. The dedication ceremony took place in front of Building 100 and was followed by a reception at the WSMR Museum.
“Gen. Fulwyler traveled to and he lived in numerous places around the world, however, he often spoke of White Sands as some of the best times of his life,” said Michael J. Thompson, Fulwyler’s grand nephew. “To have his name on this building is a very fitting symbol of a legacy that he leaves behind.”
Family members and close friends were amongst those present to honor the late major general. Randy Grunow, Installation Safety and Nuclear Surety Director at WSMR, called Fulwyler his “army dad.” His relationship with Fulwyler began in 1982 when he became the installation commander and Grunow became his driver.
Ethan Epstein, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army, read an article he wrote to be published in newspapers in the area. Like Grunow, he also remembered Fulwyler as a father figure.
“Maj. Gen. Fulwyler was one of the most remarkable personalities in my life. Upon my father’s passing in 1993, a dear friend and loyal colleague of Niles’, he succeeded in his paternal role as a loving, tough, and encouraging role model,” Epstein read.
He remembered the late general on a personal level, but also acknowledged his accomplishments as a Soldier.
“As with any exceptional leader, Maj. Gen. Fulwyler was unselfish; concerned only with giving based on genuine generosity. He is part of the Army story and is indelibly emblazed in my memory as a friend, general, commander, historian, father, groomsman, leader, mentor, patriot, straight-arrow, Soldier, New Mexican and amigo,” Epstein said.
Maj. Gen. Gwen Bingham and Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers helped Fulwyler’s family unveil a plaque and a Dynamite Crepe Myrtle tree in front of the Headquarters Building. The family members in attendance were great nephew Ryan Thompson, grand nephew Michael J. Thompson, niece Sandi Thompson, nephew Jay Thompson, and grand nieces Lori Lynn and Jodi Fergusson. Michael J. Thompson spoke on behalf of the Fulwyler family.
“The beautiful plaque with Gen. Fulwyler’s picture (where he is) smiling, that’s how we will all remember him. The tree, it adds special meaning that his memory lives on,” Thompson said.
Thompson then presented a check for $50,000 to the WSMR Museum on behalf of his great uncle.
“Gen. Fulwyler was a great student of history. He was very involved with the White Sands Missile Range Historical Foundation and the museum’s activities. It was Gen. Fulwyler’s desire upon his passing to donate a gift to that museum,” Thompson said.
Fulwyler served as WSMR Commander from Sept. 24, 1982 to June 4, 1986 and was inducted into the White Sands Missile Range Hall of Fame in 1996. He died on Jan. 11 of this year at the age of 85.
Upon his arrival at WSMR in 1982, Fulwyler dedicated himself to establish a Pershing II launch complex at Mountain Home, Idaho. Two years later, White Sands hosted the Joint Logistics Conference under his leadership. The conference brought exposure to the missile range as it hosted the four-star logistics leadership from all the services to the missile range. Fulwyler is also credited with influencing the Department of Army and Energy funded restoration of the McDonald ranch house at Trinity Site to its 1945 condition. The dedication of the ranch house restoration brought greater awareness of the site to the general public as attendance at open houses increased exponentially.
During his command, Fulwyler was in constant demand as a speaker for local meetings and events. He was awarded the George Washington Medal for Public Address while he was at White Sands.