....I think to remove the shifter w/o dropping the tranny. First I removed the shift boot, breaking the plastic retaining ring in the process (it's all good, drilled a few holes and put a few slits in the boot, and secured it with cable ties when done).
Next, out came the console, two screws to hold it in. The shift boot had to be worked back thru the console port and the transfer case lever had to be lifted. The airbag switch could be pulled off with three screws and the console seperated if you wish.
Next I removed the sheet metal screws around the plate that holds the inner boot around the stickshift, and loosened the screws holding the plate around the transfer case lever. Only removing ONE of these screws is necessary I think. The heavier plate around the transfer case lever captures the stickshift plate on the left side of the tranny hump.
Once this was done I worked the stickshift plate out to the right and up and was staring at the retaining ring.
Took about 30 minutes to get it out the first time and 30 to put it back together, including the cable ties to hold the boot in place. Test drove fine.
Tomorrow I will pull it apart again, pull the stickshift, drain the fluid, replace with RP gear oil 75W-90, and put it back together. Will let you know how it goes.