Retired Col. Ed Stone, who served as the chief of staff for the Aviation and Missile Command before his retirement in 2003, hopes to lead the Tennessee Valley chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association to its 10th win as model chapter of the national organization.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- This year could be a benchmark for the Tennessee Valley Chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association.

In 2010, the chapter leadership hopes to reach its 10-year anniversary as one of NDIA's model chapters.

And the leader making the biggest push toward that goal is chapter president Ed Stone.

Now embarking on his second year in his term as chapter president, Stone said the local NDIA chapter has celebrated nine years as a model chapter, reaching that pinnacle with a slate of activities that includes its annual awards program, the Space and Missile Defense Conference, donations for various science and math education programs, and a variety of seminars, conferences and meetings focused on building the working relationship between industry and government.

Stone, a retired colonel whose last assignment was as chief of staff at the Aviation and Missile Command, said reaching and maintaining the chapter's model status is all about improving and expanding its programs in support of the nation's defense.

"The national organization puts out a set of guidelines for competing for model chapter recognition," he said. "They want to judge the chapters for continued improvements and for meeting NDIA's international goals."

In 2009, the Tennessee Valley Chapter was one of 10 NDIA chapters to obtain model chapter status. But, even more impressive, the chapter has won model chapter status every year since the recognition program began in 2001.

"We have been successful in that regard," Stone said. "Next year, our 10th year, we fully intend to capture model chapter.

"But it's not about who's the best. It's all about how the organization engages the various chapters to help them all achieve the common goal of supporting national defense. We stand ready and prepared to support the government's requirements in ensuring the national defense."

Stone joined NDIA in 2003 soon after retiring from 30 years in the Army, and quickly became involved in its leadership. The chapter's success, he said, is made possible because of the community in which it is established.

"We are in a very engaging community. So the environment is ripe for doing well," he said.

"The character of our Tennessee Valley community and the relationship of industry with government agencies that are all about readiness, and the development of new technologies right here that make our world a better place all contribute to our success. So, too, do the board members and officers who are committed individuals, who are leaders of substance from industry and government, and who are concerned and dedicated toward solving problems and making things better."

Stone said board members are instrumental, also, because of their "important links between professional organizations and industry and government."

And, lastly, the chapter's membership - now at 2,427 members including 50 corporate members -- wants to "contribute to national defense preparedness and develop innovative technologies that contribute to that. We are interested in national defense not just of this country, but of everything American, everything that America represents and what we are committed to with our allies," he added.

Becoming active in the local NDIA chapter was a natural for a Soldier who learned activism while wearing the uniform.

"There are three kinds of people - leaders, doers and spectators," Stone said. "All of us who have served and who continue to serve in a different capacity want to be doers and, in many cases, leaders who work to make the community better. I was invited to join the NDIA board to help with the relationship with the Army and with Redstone."

Once on the board, Stone became focused on the NDIA mission, and growing and expanding the local chapter and its activities.

"We have a great chapter. But I'm never satisfied on staying where I am," he said. "We need to move forward, and become better."

In 2009, the local chapter's membership grew by 16.9 percent. The chapter's list of conferences, meetings and activities in support of national defense grew as did its contributions to local groups encouraging interests in science and math in the area's children. That chapter donated $58,000 to science, technology and math-related student development programs, including Science, Technology, Education and Training program, the Alabama Council for Technology in Education Science Fair, Adventures in Engineering and the Military Order of the World Wars Youth Leadership Program.

"We want to help create interest in studies in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math with the hope that at some point students will become tomorrow's engineers, scientists and technical leaders in this community," Stone said.

The local chapter's 28-member board is representative of local industry and government activities, socially diverse, and self-initiated, committed and dedicated.

The NDIA chapter as well as the other organizations Stone has become involved with since his military retirement share the same attributes. He is active in the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army, the Air, Space and Missile Defense Association and the Rotary Club of Greater Huntsville. He has been named Rotarian of the Year twice.

"It's important to me to serve within these types of organizations," Stone said.

But his career of service began long before his days as a defense and space contractor, first with SRS Technology, which is now part of NeXolve. After graduating from college, he made plans to serve in the Reserves.

"But at Officer Basic Course I realized I loved being in the Army and that active duty was for me," he said. "I liked the camaraderie, the challenge and the people. I liked the Army mission, and the sense of doing something that was more important than doing for me."

An infantry officer, Stone served in Germany when the wall came down and as Soldier units were preparing for Operation Desert Storm.

"My best assignment was as battalion commander in Germany," he said. "I commanded a multi-faceted battalion. I knew many of the officers and most of the senior leadership in the battalion. I only needed to learn the junior leadership.

"It was a comfortable role for me. I was high enough so that I could really make things happen for Soldiers. But I was low enough where I could relate to Soldiers every day."

Yet, it was his assignment in Huntsville that finally brought Stone to a place where he could enjoy service long after his military years.

"My first public event here was at the Von Braun Center, North Hall," he recalled. "I met then Mayor Loretta Spencer that night.

"Back then, we had to retire after 30 years, and I had 27 and one half years in. She asked me what my plans were going to be after retirement. I told her I had a home in Virginia Beach and I'd probably go there.

"She said 'No. I think you will fall in love with Huntsville, retire and get a great job and stay here.' And she was exactly right. Huntsville has everything good that a big city has to offer. I love it here, and my family loves it here. My house in Virginia Beach is for sale."

The Army taught Stone about selfless service and working for the common good - two philosophies that he has carried with him into the civilian world and into his leadership role with NDIA, and that he continues to see in today's military.

"Young people who make the commitment to serve their country are truly those to be honored and respected," Stone said. "They represent this nation and what we stand for and everything we do. I have great confidence in our military."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16