During recent meetings with local media, Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, the new commander of the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, talks about the three core tasks of the organization - provide trained and ready space and missile defense forces, build the future of space and missile defense capabilities, and research, develop, test, acquire and integrate space and missile technologies.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- First impressions are usually lasting ones.

So, when a three-star general speaks highly of the community a new assignment has taken him to, it's well worth being noted.

Such is the case with Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, who took time on Dec. 20 - only five days after assuming command of the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command and the Joint Functional Component Command-Integrated Missile Defense - to speak with the local media about his impressions of the Redstone Arsenal/Huntsville community and SMDC/ARSTRAT.

"My first impressions have been very positive," Formica said. "Redstone Arsenal has a great reputation as an Army installation and in its relationship with the local community.

"We've (wife Diane and I) been out and about a little bit. We've wandered into Huntsville. I'm looking forward to learning more about the Arsenal, the surrounding community and the relationship they share ... And I want to continue SMDC/ARSTRAT's role as a good tenant and a contributing, positive member of the Redstone Arsenal and Tennessee Valley community."

Formica and his wife are "encouraged by the relationship that Redstone Arsenal has with the community ... We're looking forward to doing our part to cultivate that relationship and be a part of it."

Though it appears he is quick to step out into his new leadership role, Formica has actually been waiting about a year for the SMDC/ARSTRAT command assignment to come to fruition. During that time, this Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran served as special assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Army, working on the Air and Missile Defense Task Force and other missile defense related issues at Department of the Army headquarters in Washington, D.C. The assignment gave Formica the opportunity to familiarize himself with the growing role of SMDC/ARSTRAT in the planning and integrating of space and missile defense capabilities in support of the Army's Strategic Command and the missions of the geographic combatant commanders.

"The extended transition allowed me to get a feel of the organization from the outside. I interacted with major stakeholders of SMDC/ARSTRAT," Formica said. "In addition, Lt. Gen. (Kevin) Campbell (the outgoing SMDC/ARSTRAT commander) gave me the opportunity to see some of the inside aspects of the command."

During the year, Formica visited places like Fort Greely, Alaska, where Soldiers assigned to SMDC's 1st Space Brigade work with Soldiers of the 100th Missile Defense Brigade, Colorado Army National Guard, to operate the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense capability, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., one of the Strategic Command's sites. In his first couple days at SMDC/ARSTRAT, Formica visited with the work force on a social basis during a holiday celebration, and attended several transitional sessions to get oriented on the command and its leadership.

Formica said that the "battle rhythm" of today's Army is unforgiving, and can make it difficult for new leadership to get up to speed on an organization's contributions to the war fighter. The best way to learn an organization, especially when in an up-tempo environment, is by doing, he said.

His commitment to learning SMDC/ARSTRAT has put Formica in a good position to know the organization before he actually knows its employees. And what he has come to know has convinced him SMDC/ARSTRAT has a lot to offer the nation, the Army and the war fighter in terms of three core tasks.

"This is an important command in our Army," Formica said. "In my view, we will continue to do what we do to, one, be a force provider of trained and ready space and missile defense forces; two, to be a combat developer of future space and missile defense capabilities; and, three, to be a technology center where we research, develop, test, acquire and integrate space and missile defense and other technologies."

In his commander's capacity, Formica views his role as serving, leading and setting the standards for the organization's 1,000 civilian and 900 Soldier employees worldwide. When speaking about his responsibility, Formica also talks about "caring for the Soldiers and civilians of the command" and "guiding the organization" to fulfill its three core tasks "in a way that best supports Soldiers deployed in harm's way."

Formica is well aware of what today's Soldiers face during deployments to war zones. In 2009, he served as commanding general of the Combined Security Transition Command in Afghanistan. In 2004-05, he served as the commanding general of the Force Field Artillery Headquarters and as the Joint Fires and Effects coordinator for Multi-National Corps-Iraq.

Formica's military career began with ROTC at Providence College, Providence, R.I., and graduation from Bryant College in Smithfield, R.I., where, in 1977, he was commissioned as a field artillery officer.

"I do not have a missile defense background," Formica said. "But one of things the Army is doing as it continues to transform its fighting force is to bring together air defense and field artillery. You are seeing that at the Fires Center of Excellence, where they have both the field artillery school and the air defense artillery school.

"My field artillery experience and fire support experience and my other assignments have prepared me for this assignment in many ways."

Besides his deployments and most recent previous assignment, Formica's career has included serving as director of Force Management in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, commander general of the III Corps Artillery, Fort Hood, Texas; as assistant and acting deputy director for Politico-Military Affairs (Europe) on the Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.; and in numerous other command, fire support and staff assignments in Germany, and at Fort Hood, Fort Stewart, Ga., the U.S. Military Academy and Department of the Army headquarters. His medals include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with oak leaf cluster) and Bronze Star (with oak leaf cluster).

"All these experiences provide some perspective of this command," Formica said. "During my deployment as a brigadier general with the Multi-National Corps-Iraq, I had the opportunity operationally to see the capabilities and developed technologies provided by SMDC/ARSTRAT. In Afghanistan ... I had a close view of what combat operations are doing every day and how they can benefit from space-based capabilities. These experiences will serve me well as I look at this organization."

As with any successful Army organization, SMDC/ARSTRAT consists of "great Soldiers and civilians supported by family members," Formica said.

To that mix, Formica hopes to emphasize public service.

"I expect all of us in uniform and in civilian clothes to be public servants, and to serve the needs of the organization and the Army first and foremost," he said. "We should not be self-promoters. But we should expect to serve as part of a larger team. We are not an entity onto ourselves. We exist so we can provide capabilities in our three core areas. We need to remain part of the larger team."

For Formica, being part of the Army team has become a lifelong commitment.

"From day one, I came in for the opportunity to serve," he said. "I had a recognition that I was in to an organization that was bigger than self ...and where the mission is paramount. I have loved being part of the team. One of the great things about the Army is that the Soldiers, civilians and family members you get to serve with are quality people who all have the sense of service, and a sense of community that can't equate to any other walk in life."

From the beginning of his career, Formica's wife Diane and then his four children, now all grown, have been part of the Army team.

"Diane is the most important part of me ... I would not be here today if not for Diane and four kids, and the contributions and sacrifices they were willing to make. I know and appreciate the sacrifices we made together as a family," he said.

Along the way, Diane Formica, a school teacher by profession, has taught in every community where her family has lived. She has been active in family readiness groups, Army Community Service, Army Emergency Relief, Armed Services YMCA and the Military Child Education Coalition.

"Diane has served Soldiers and families wherever we have lived. She always found those niche areas where she felt she could best support me and Soldiers and families," Formica said.

"(Being a school teacher) enabled her to develop herself professionally. It was also a great way for her to plug into the community. Her work, mostly in public education, enabled her to become part of the community in her own right."

As the commander at SMDC/ARSTRAT, Formica expects employees - both civilian and military - to be precise in their work, confident, physically fit, disciplined and courageous. He expects his leadership to be "tough, competent and caring."

And he expects the same from himself. Formica is actually "dual-hatted," commanding two separate and distinct commands. While SMDC/ARSTRAT has a high profile at Redstone, Formica is also charged with leading the lesser locally known Joint Functional Component Command for integrated missile defense.

"SMDC/ARSTRAT is an Army command that is a force provider to the Strategic Command, and a provider of space and missile defense capability," he said. "When the Strategic Command created the joint commands a few years ago (in 2005 when Lt. Gen. Larry Dodgen was in command at SMDC/ARSTRAT and continuing through Lt. Gen. Kevin Campbell's command) to focus on critical areas of its mission set, the joint command for space went to the 14th Air Force and ARSTRAT became dual-hatted as the integrator for missile defense. I am honored to be serving in both capacities."

Logistically, the command works because while SMDC/ARSTRAT operations are split between Huntsville and Colorado Springs, Colo., JFCC-IMD is located in Colorado Springs, which is also the headquarters for U.S. Northern Command, the Pentagon's Homeland Security Command. While Formica plans to spend a good part of his time both in Huntsville and Colorado Springs, his commander's role also requires him to visit units and Soldiers around the world and embedded with geographic combatant commands.

"SMDC/ARSTRAT is a growth command," Formica said. "It is meeting the needs of the Army already in all three core task areas (force provider, combat developer and technology center). I am very appreciative of the leadership Lt. Gen. Larry Dodgen and Lt. Gen. Kevin Campbell have provided to get SMDC/ARSTRAT where it is today.

"I want to focus on those three core tasks. I want to sustain the emphasis and focus on providing the kinds of capabilities needed for Soldiers deployed in harm's way. SMDC/ARSTRAT is already relevant to the Soldier and it needs to remain relevant to the Soldier ... SMDC/ARSTRAT provides critical capabilities to the Army, capabilities we can only provide."

While SMDC-ARSTRAT provides technological capabilities, JFCC-IMD steps into the picture with the integration of missile defense, he said.

Space and missile defense capabilities must continue to be "fully integrated with the Army's war fight operations," Formica said. "Those capabilities must be fully integrated with the Strategic Command, the Secretary of Defense, government structures and the Army campaign. This is an enterprise franchise and we want to be plugged into that."

With the worldwide mission of SMDC/ARSTRAT, Formica said he is fortunate to be allowed to lead a "great command with a great reputation within the Army and throughout the world. SMDC has a well-earned reputation. I want to work to sustain that reputation and provide capabilities."

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