Thankful for his time in Natick, Greene prepares to move on
May 5, 2011
NATICK, Mass. - "We've accomplished a lot, but there is still a lot of work to do," said Brig. Gen. Harold Greene, the Senior Commander of the Natick Soldier Systems Center.
The general was reflecting on his time in command of the center. He will relinquish command to Brig. Gen. John McGuiness on May 10 after serving as the NSSC Commanding General and Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Center.
While reflecting on his time in command, the general was asked if there was one big thing he could hang his hat on as his legacy and if there was one thing that he didn't get to that he wanted to accomplish.
"My replacement is going to live at Natick," said Greene of the one thing he can hang his hat on. "One of my frustrations was that I wanted to do more, but a lot of the things you do to tell the story happen on weekends, and I wasn't here routinely on weekends. It was tough for me to justify the travel to do things that look like social events, but were probably very important to networking and telling the Natick story. My replacement has moved his family here and is going to be in residence. He'll travel a lot, but we planted a General Officer flag back in New England. I think that is tremendously important and it gives a presence in the community that wasn't here before with a part-time Senior Commander.
"The one thing I didn't get to - quality of life and facilities," said the general. "I wish I could have stayed longer to continue to do more. The workforce here deserves better. We need to keep working to improve the quality of life for the workforce and the Soldiers that are stationed here. That is going to require resources over time. The infrastructure here is not what anyone would like it to be. It was a problem that took many years to get here.
"If you gave me one thing that I could fix tomorrow, it would be to rip out those god awful windows and put in state of the art thermal pane windows and get some light in here."
One of the processes put into place to work on improving the infrastructure and quality of life is the NSSC Master Plan.
"It's a plan that we can use to incrementally improve the installation," said Greene. "You're never going to get enough money all at once to do everything you want. If you don't have a plan to work against, you run the risk of putting money against something that doesn't make sense in the long term. So now we have a plan that we can use to incrementally improve the installation so if somebody asks you what do you need, what is it for and how will it get you to the future, we can answer those questions."
As the NSSC senior commander, Greene spent much of his time here out in the community speaking at many events from Iwo Jima Day at the Massachusetts State House to the transfer of flags ceremony at the Natick School District.
"When it comes to the community, there are two things that needed to be done," said Greene. "One is specific to NSSC and that is to tell the story of the great work that is done here and how important it is to the US Army. Secondly, we are in a unique situation that there is only one active-duty Army installation in the six New England states and we need to remind them that everybody who serves in the Army whether in uniform, or as a Department of the Army civilian is a volunteer and the work that is done here is absolutely essential."
Whether it was briefing Sen. Scott Brown, or giving a quick talk before the Organization Day fun run, the general was always looking to the future. He would speak of his niece, who is a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and making Natick a place where she would want to come to work someday.
"I would like to think we have fixed a few things and a couple things will get fixed after I leave," said the general. "We're going to change the entry. We fixed a couple strategic infrastructure problems. We got a couple of the roofs fixed. We still have a lot of work to do. I think we have a plan that we can go to people and let them know that it is worth investing in NSSC.
"We're creating a more professional environment and that is very important for the future of the NSSC," Greene continued. "When you bring someone important here, a senior leader or visitor or even when I talk to students who come on the installation, the message I want them to take away is that we haven't given these people a whole lot, but what we have given them, they are making great use of and doing some really important work for the Army. I think that is the message that General (Ann) Dunwoody (Commanding General of U.S. Army Material Command) took away and Senator Brown and Representative (Edward) Markey took away and so many others. If what they see that is something that isn't organized, regardless of how important the work is, that first impression sticks. I don't think that first impression represents the workforce at Natick and the great work they do. I am pleased at how things have improved. I want people to see the great work done here at Natick for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and Homeland Defenders."
When the presidency changes hands, the new president opens the center drawer in the Oval Office and usually finds a hand written note from his predecessor. When asked if there would be a note for the incoming commander, Greene said he wasn't sure, but had plenty of advice.
"I hadn't thought about writing a note to put in the desk, but I might now," said Greene. "Here is what I tell Brigadier General McGuiness. The community here deserves the attention of a General Officer both inside the fence and within the greater community and there is an important job to be done here. I think we in many ways haven't put in enough attention to the work that is done here at Natick and into the facilities here at Natick. I think the work has been recognized. The Soldier is a priority now... it is on the radar of the Secretary of the Army, it is in the Chief's Top-10, the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition logistics and technology has the Soldier as a specific focus and that fits right into the work that is done at Natick. I think you're going to get some emphasis on the work that gets done here. I try to make sure that those folks understand that we need to put as much work into the enablers who do the great work here. We need to put some great effort into bringing the quality of the infrastructure up to the quality of the people who work here and the work that they do.
"Embrace the community," Greene continued. "One of the things I knew from growing up here as a kid was how patriotic (Massachusetts) was. I knew from going to parades on Memorial Day to going to the green in Franklin and seeing the names of the WWII Veterans where my Dad and grandfather showed me their names on the monument. I learned to have a deeper appreciation during my time here. I had many opportunities to get out in the community. Speaking at Iwo Jima Day in the Massachusetts State Capitol. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Boston. After all these years, on the Sunday closest to the date the monument was dedicated, they ask people to come down and remember. Going to a church in Southie with a whole community of folks and then heading to the monument for the re-dedication, it brings it home to you that this is a very patriotic part of the country. It makes you proud; it makes you want to serve. I have told Brigadier General McGuiness, reach out and embrace the community because they want to embrace you."
Greene, who is leaving to become the Program Executive Officer, Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, said it is bittersweet to leave NSSC.
"It was always a pleasure to come to Natick," said Greene. "My parents' families are from this part of Massachusetts. I spent a lot of time here when I was growing up and have a lot of fond memories of Eastern Massachusetts. For me to be able to come here and it be business, and enjoy the ambiance of New England was a great pleasure.
"It is bittersweet. It's always bittersweet when you give up command," the general continued. "Command is the best job in the Army. It was always hard for me to be here only part-time. I always wished the Army would have said you are assigned there. That is why I campaigned hard and successfully that the two jobs that I had could be done just as easily from Natick and it was important to have a general officer flag here."
During his time as the senior commander at NSSC, one place you could always find the general was on the Soldier Systems Center Facebook page. When asked if he will still be following the great work done at Natick, the general responded, "I will read but not comment."
"I really appreciated the Natick Facebook page because there are official and unofficial ways the Commanding General can send messages," Greene said. "One of the things I wanted to tell the workforce here is that you do a lot of great things. People notice. I pushed very hard to get good news story on Facebook. It gave us a chance to share with the people who cared to follow us that something good happened. One of the things that you have to look out for as a commander is everyone is going to bring you the bad news. Bad news travels fast. You can't let the bad news be your focus.
"We have to tell the good news stories," he continued. "If you focus on the bad news, you miss the point that the vast majority of what happens here is tremendously positive and tremendously important to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and Homeland defenders, and I love the fact that I had an outlet to go tell that story. It was simple, easy and fast, but it allowed me to hopefully reach out to some folks here and say thanks. You're doing something important and let them know that in a small way with a rapid turnaround that we noticed and you did a heck of a job."
The change of command ceremony is set to start at 10 a.m. on May 10 in Hunter Auditorium.