Huntsville Native Retiring In Community
June 12, 2014
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Maj. Gen. Lynn Collyar is staying true to his roots in his retirement years.
Born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, Collyar's life came full circle when he was called home to lead the Aviation and Missile Command in June 2012, the high point of his career that also turned out to be the final chapter. It's a circle that will remain unbroken, as he and wife, Col. Sarah Green, settle in the Tennessee Valley upon his official retirement Sept. 1.
"It's harder to get much better than this," said Collyar, whose change of command will be Thursday. "I'm honored and humbled by the opportunity to come here and lead an organization where my dad retired in 1988. That's pretty neat."
It's the pinnacle of Collyar's 35-year Army career, which began when he was commissioned in the Ordnance Corps upon his graduation from West Point in 1979. At the time, Collyar had his life all mapped out -- serve for five years, then follow in his father's footsteps, who was a rocket scientist at Redstone Arsenal. Obviously, those plans changed.
"I always say I've failed at my 30 years. I honestly expected to do five," Collyar said. "I've way exceeded and gone beyond my expectations."
Collyar has come a long way since his first assignment with the 619th Ordnance Company, 72nd Ordnance Battalion, 59th Ordnance Brigade at Kriegsfeld, Germany. Other assignments throughout his career include chief, Focused Logistics Division, Force Development, headquarters Department of the Army G8 at the Pentagon; commander of the 29th Support Group, 21st Theater Support Command, which included support of Operation Iraqi Freedom; director of logistics operations for the Defense Logistics Agency, and as the 35th Chief of Ordnance at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and Fort Lee, Virginia.
He is the recipient of the Defense Superior Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Meritorious Service Medal with silver oak leaf cluster and the Army Parachutist Badge.
While Collyar never "had a bad tour -- ever," his last few as a general officer remain the highlights of his career, as he sought out more responsibilities and opportunities to make a difference. His time with the Defense Logistics Agency gave him a glimpse into what it means to run a worldwide supply system, and although at times stressful, his tours at the Pentagon gave him great job satisfaction in knowing that he was impacting the whole Army. Chief of ordnance presented him with the challenge of moving the schoolhouse from his hometown to Fort Lee.
"As a lieutenant or anywhere else, I never would've thought I would ever be the chief of ordnance," Collyar said. "That's pretty neat to get to represent your branch. Doing that job, I changed the way the Army trained maintenance. For the last 50 years, they'd always trained maintenance based on a platform. We changed it to base it on skills instead of platform based because certain types of vehicles we never had in the training base during the war, like an MRAP, but a Soldier still needs to know how to fix it."
In his capacity as AMCOM's commander, Collyar has been proud to represent the men and women who strive day in and day out to serve the Soldier. In his last town hall May 29, he was honored to recognize 121 people who represented 4,200 years of combined service, just a sampling of the dedicated workers he has led for the past two years.
"It doesn't matter where I am, people know what they're doing and will make the right decisions," Collyar said. "I get to go out and represent them in different places and the achievements that they've made. I don't ever go out and get complained to by commanders in the field. I get praised for the work they do."
Regardless of where he has served as a leader, Collyar always carried with him a lesson he learned while getting yelled at during his first day at West Point, the importance of positive leadership.
"I haven't learned anything by having somebody holler at me and I don't think that's the way you get a Soldier to do something either," he said. "I can order a Soldier to do something or I can ask a Soldier to do something. They will always do it better if they want to do it for you versus you ordered them to do it for you."
It is the Soldiers and the camaraderie of the Army family as a whole that Collyar will miss the most as he hangs up his own uniform.
"I'll miss Soldiers, and when you say Soldiers, it applies to the civilian workforce too," he said. "Just because somebody's not wearing a uniform doesn't mean they don't care as much. They chose to serve in a different way. I'll miss them too."
While Collyar's career is coming to a close, the impact he has made on the Army will continue in the years to come through the future leaders he's fostered, as well as the missions he's helped to complete.
"Your own individual legacy is watching the young people that work for you continue to grow and assume positions of greater responsibility or command, and it's always great to see them continue to do good things," he said. "It's not what you personally did.
"There are some things that we have worked over the years that I'm very proud of. Working in the Pentagon, to up-armor wheeled vehicles for Iraq and Afghanistan, and the lives and limbs that we saved is a legacy that will always be there. We changed the way we fight. The Aviation Restructure Initiative will change the way aviation operates for the next 40 to 50 years possibly. It is good to be able to do things and be part of working toward the future, not just working for the day."
How Collyar plans to spend his days after the Army he's not quite sure, although a trip to West Point for his 35th reunion is in the works for the fall, with possible stops in Boston and Cape Cod. One thing Collyar knows for certain is that he is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of Team Redstone, which includes the greater Huntsville/Madison County community.
"There's not a better partnership relationship in the Army," he said. "It is a great place to be and a good place to walk out from and have your head held high. Nothing is on a downhill slide."