Maj. Gen. Niles Fulwyler was the 16th commanding general of White Sands Missile Range, serving in that capacity from 1982 through 1986.
While he had promotable opportunities beyond White Sands, he retired directly thereafter with 34 years of distinguished military service, moving to Santa Fe and, subsequently in 2001, to Meridian, Idaho.
He regarded White Sands as his favorite place in the United States Army because of its community, and global military significance in both peacetime and war.
Fulwyler was an exceptional leader, always in the arena, strong and tempestuous. He was commissioned a field artillery officer serving early on with the Army’s first guided missile units.
Extremely successful academically, he saw combat in Vietnam in two tours of duty, first as an artillery battalion commander of the 101st Airborne Division and later as a staff officer in a corps headquarters.
A recipient of numerous medals, including the Purple Heart, Fulwyler was instrumental in planning and executing some of the heaviest tactical and strategic bombing in Vietnam.
At White Sands, he was a champion for soldiers, civilians and families, as well as the modernization and development efforts that continue to help our country maintain a comparative and a competitive advantage over our adversaries.
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.
We first met when I was 12 and almost immediately connected as lifetime friends. I was instantly drawn to his desire and ability to bond with people on a personal level.
As with any exceptional leader, Fulwyler was unselfish, concerned only with giving based on genuine generosity. He is part of the Army story and is indelibly emblazoned in my memory as a friend, general, commander, historian, father, groomsman, leader, mentor, patriot, straight arrow, soldier, New Mexican and amigo.
This article celebrates Niles’ exceptional determination, resolve and love of country. His example reminds us that, whether or not the United States is at war, our Armed Forces defend our liberties with the modernization developed and perfected in large part at White Sands.
It is vital that we maintain his example and understand his significance, like countless others civilians and soldiers who have served and sacrificed.
I hope to help fulfill that mission by paying tribute to one of America’s best – a dear friend, leader and trusted mentor – who will be forever missed by the rest of us who carry on with his patriotic purpose.
May God bless Major General Fulwyler, God bless the United States Army and God bless America.