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New base commander has background as a reformer

Col. John M. Devillier replaces Col. Cassie B. Barlow Thursday.

The new commander at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is a 21-year-career officer who initiated reforms at the Air Force’s mortuary operations in the aftermath of a scandal at Dover Air Force Base.

Col. John M. Devillier will take over the high-profile post from Col. Cassie B. Barlow today in a change of command ceremony.

Devillier became commander of the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations at Dover in May 2012 after allegations of mismanagement, missing human remains, and whistle-blower retaliation, according to The News Journal in Wilmington, Del. Employees praised Devillier during his tenure in Dover, The News Journal reported last week.

An Air Force Inspector General’s Office investigation in 2011 found no laws were broken, according to Air Force Times.

“I was sent to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations during a very challenging time for the organization and I tried my best to work with the first class team there to implement some necessary reforms,” Devillier said in a statement Wednesday released through a Wright-Patterson spokeswoman. “It is a very important mission, perhaps the most important mission of all. Bringing home our fallen heroes and reuniting them with their families and their nation is the mark of a great nation. I’m proud to have played even a small role in such important work.”

In an interview with this newspaper this year, Devillier said he would meet with airmen to outline expectations and assess morale when he took over the top post at Wright-Patterson. He also said he would address the issue of sexual assault in the military and build trust.

“You want to take care of the airmen and they’ll take care of the job and that’s my No. 1 motivator to take care of the folks around me,” Devillier said then.

Barlow took over the 88th Air Base Wing and its 5,000 airmen at Wright-Patterson in July 2012. She will retire after 26 years in the Air Force.

In her tenure, she said she faced “unprecedented” times, such as a temporary government shutdown and the furlough of civil service workers twice in 2013. Last year, sequestration-induced spending cuts resulted in slashed maintenance upkeep to the closure of the base library, among other consequences.

Barlow said it will be important for Devillier “to continue to build partnerships with and continue to build bridges (with the community) because as we’ve seen over the last two years, we’ve found those relationships within the Miami Valley were very important as we were going through furlough and sequestration…”

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