Lt. Gen. Richard P. Formica, commanding general, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, gives the opening remarks to officially kick off the 14th annual Space and Missile Defense Conference at the Von Braun Center, Huntsville, Ala., Aug. 16. The conference took place Aug. 15-18.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - The Rocket City once again became the launching pad for leaders in the space and missile defense universe.

With the theme of "Providing Capabilities to the Warfighter," the 14th annual Space and Missile Defense Conference was hosted at the Von Braun Center, Aug. 15-18. The conference was presented by the Air, Space and Missile Defense Association, the National Defense Industrial Association's Tennessee Valley Chapter and the Air Defense Artillery Association.

"Our space professionals are on point for our nation supporting the Warfighters and civilians," said Lt. Gen. Richard P. Formica, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command commanding general, during the conference kickoff. "Today the Army has some 246,000-plus Soldiers deployed and forward stationed with more than 114,000 in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our Soldiers are focused - and they're making progress every day under tough tactical conditions.

"And even under the most arduous conditions in which they operate, they continue to perform magnificently every day," he continued. "Our Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians are providing space and missile defense for our country and for our Warfighters. They understand service and they understand sacrifice.

"Our space ops Soldiers are in the fight," Formica added. "It's to these Soldiers and the ones they support to whom we commit to providing timely, relevant space and missile defense capabilities."

During his opening remarks, Formica, along with SMDC G-3 Sgt. Maj. John Mattie, also introduced Staff Sgt. Andrew Brown, 1st Space Company, 1st Space Battalion, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Spc. Brandon Kitchen of B Company, 53rd Signal Battalion, Fort Meade, Md. Brown and Kitchen were named the command's 2011 Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and Soldier of the Year.

At the same time, the command's recent inductees into the Army's Sergeant Audie Murphy Club were also named. The newest members are: Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Cutshall, Sgt. 1st Class Vincent Perches, Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Trout, Staff Sgt. Jason Burnett, Staff Sgt. Justin Espinoza, Staff Sgt. David Padilla, Staff Sgt. Sherome Snell and Staff Sgt. Anthony Wright.

Besides Formica, speakers throughout the week included: Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle; Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, director of the Missile Defense Agency; Lt. Gen. Dennis Via, deputy commander of the Army Materiel Command; Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, the first female military astronaut and commander of the Air Force Space Command and the Joint Functional Component Command for Space, U.S. Strategic Command, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.; among others.

During the week there were panel discussions with subject matter experts, social receptions and numerous other events to inform the public of the space and missile defense community's current and future endeavors.

"The sponsors for the Space and Missile Defense Conference have really outdone themselves this year," said Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks. "I hope that the general public, through the (Space and Missile Defense Conference), are better able to understand the role that our community plays in national defense.

"We do things in the Tennessee Valley - over at Redstone Arsenal - that no one else in the world is capable of doing," he added. "It's a credit to the brainpower that we have put together at the arsenal, and with the supporting private companies, that is so very important to our defense capabilities as a nation. We truly give our Warfighters an edge that enables us to prevail in conflicts with our enemies and this week exemplifies that."

At the conference, one SMDC leader talked about the importance that the week means to the men and women in uniform who are in harm's way.

"The conference has been outstanding," said Col. Eric P. Henderson, 1st Space Brigade commander. "It is good to meet our partners in technology and industry and see what innovations they have, and to see if and when we will have capabilities that would apply to our mission set.

"The work that is being done in the nanosatellite department looks like it will have an application that will benefit our Soldiers," he added. "I look forward to seeing how we can apply it to what the troops need."

Making an appearance during the week were two Army astronauts, Col. Shane Kimbrough and Lt. Col. Mark Vande Hei, who are assigned to SMDC's NASA detachment at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"I have really enjoyed this week," Vande Hei said. "The highlight for me is to be able to speak with school kids as well as people who really have a passion for the space program.

"We have had some great speakers who are letting us know where we are going in the future," he added. "It is great to be able to walk up to people and ask them questions about the things they are proud of."

As the astronauts talked with people, Kimbrough discussed how it felt to share his stories with the public.

"This has been a great experience," Kimbrough said. "It is always great to meet wonderful people and that is what this week is about. It gives people a chance to see what is going on with the missile defense and this side of what the Army does to defend the nation.

"I hope to be able to go back and share what I have learned this week and the great things we are doing here in space and missile defense," he added.

Besides the technological booths at the conference, several authors were present to sign their books.

"This has been a good chance to get out and meet some wonderful people who are giving their all to support our troops," said Medal of Honor recipient and retired Air Force Col. Leo Thorsness. "The bottom line is protecting our troops and supporting them when they are overseas and that is what this week is about.

"It is always an honor to meet the men and women who are serving the nation," he added. "And when they asked me to come here and sell a few books, I couldn't turn them down. I am proud to be here and I am proud of our brave men and women in uniform."

In the VBC, more than 250 companies, both large and small, had booths featuring everything from full-size displays to computer simulations of future technologies.

"This conference has been incredibly informative," Brown said. "All the space panels, displays and presentations we have seen have been great. I hope to go back to my unit and share what I have learned and let them know about some of the things coming in the future.

"The technology is amazing, and not just from the bigger companies," he added. "Some of the smaller companies are doing things that are keeping our country safe. Where we are going in the future is really exciting and every Soldier should look forward to seeing it."

In the VBC Arena, companies presented military vehicles such as the Avenger weapon system, a Medium Extended Air Defense System Tactical Operations Center, a nanosatellite demonstration and a mock battle command and control systems.

The exhibits were set up to show how current and future technologies and systems will ultimately benefit the Soldiers on the frontlines and bring them home to their loved ones.

"This week has been absolutely amazing for me," Kitchen said. "Every aspect of what I have seen has been incredible. Seeing the innovations and the advances we have made in technology and what the next step in evolution is will be amazing.

"One of the things that stuck out to me is the nanosatellite booth," he added. "The entire concept is going to revolutionize the satellite world. It is going to give more communication capabilities to the Warfighters and, without a doubt, it is one of the most impressive technological advances out there."

Page last updated Mon August 22nd, 2011 at 10:55