Garrison Commander Leads BRAC Support
September 14, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--Col. John Hamilton knew the positive effect the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure activities were having on Redstone Arsenal well before he became the commander of the Garrison.
While working in the Army Materiel Command's headquarters in 2008-09, Hamilton was involved in the planning for AMC's new headquarters at Redstone. He visited Redstone in 2009 for the groundbreaking for AMC's new building. He also was privy to some of the comments AMC employees were making about moving to Huntsville.
"Many were very excited about the move," he said. "But it is a very individual, very family-based kind of decision."
Hamilton took over the Garrison command last fall and learned quickly about the type of teamwork that brought BRAC to the Arsenal and that was working to complete $431.4 million in building construction related to BRAC by this year's Sept. 15 deadline. What Hamilton saw when he came to Redstone convinced him that the Tennessee Valley community is well-deserving of its new BRAC-related tenants.
"Since I've been here, I've become familiar with the Tennessee Valley BRAC Committee, and how it engages with the Arsenal and the organizations coming here" he said. "The committee speaks volumes for this community. It is so aggressive about inviting and going out and meeting people and talking about opportunities, and assisting employees in making decisions to move here. This committee is extremely important and very, very valuable."
So, too, are local and state officials, community leaders and corporate partners that have created a synergy with Redstone Arsenal that benefits the entire region.
"The partnership is absolutely phenomenal," Hamilton said. "We are working very closely with each other to make sure we have a common understanding of the needs."
While BRAC has had a substantial impact on Redstone, Hamilton is quick to point out that it's not the only story of growth on the installation and in the community.
"The organizations that came here as a result of the BRAC reorganization are a piece of the growth," he said. "There is other growth going on. For some of that growth, BRAC was a catalyst. For other growth, you can't draw a direct line to BRAC. Most of the growth that occurs off Redstone Arsenal and in the community around it is based on business decisions and the question 'Where is the right place to invest money?'"
Growth numbers show that Redstone Arsenal continues to have a significant impact on the Tennessee Valley and its communities.
"As we add employees to the work force at Redstone Arsenal we create additional growth in the community," Hamilton said. "Some of the changing nature of the types of work going on here causes other indirect growth, and we continue to see new companies and existing companies expand. We will continue to see a growth pattern in response to Army growth."
Some of that growth just happens to be within a stone's throw of Gate 9, where the Army has joined in a government-business partnership known as an enhanced use lease to build one of the largest military-associated office complexes. The partnership between the Army, the city of Huntsville and Corporate Office Properties Trust will result in the development of the 468-acre, 55-plus building Redstone Gateway to provide space for business growth associated with the Arsenal.
"The capacity that exists in the enhanced use lease (Redstone Gateway) will be a great resource for this community," Hamilton said.
Other new office space that will grow Arsenal capabilities can be found on the eastern side of the installation, where buildings that once housed the Ordnance Munitions and Electronics Maintenance School will be converted into much-needed space for organizations both on and off post.
"The schoolhouse and its Soldiers were very, very visible in the community. The organizations that replaced them do very different kinds of work," Hamilton said.
"Now we need more office buildings with space for administration, acquisition, and research and development. There are fewer people in uniform here and those that are in uniform are, in general, more senior in rank and they do different kinds of work. There are more civilians now. And these employees need different kinds of facilities. With the changes in demographics, the Garrison's job is to deliver the right services in the right quantities in the right places."
As Garrison commander, Hamilton is the fourth and latest to lead efforts in support of the 2005 BRAC. Redstone became involved with BRAC efforts in 2003 under the leadership of then Garrison commander Col. Bob Devlin. After the 2005 BRAC was announced, Garrison leadership was passed on to the new Garrison commander, then Col. John Olshefski, and later to Col. Bob Pastorelli. All four have overseen efforts by the Garrison to respond to the needs for facilities and services by its new and expanding tenants, with Hamilton taking on the responsibility toward the end of BRAC construction completion.
"We now have here at Redstone several fairly high level headquarters. These are organizations that function at the strategic level of the Department of Defense," he said. "There's not many places where you have this many senior level offices. It's very similar to what you see at the Pentagon with a heavy emphasis of civilian employees."
Hamilton likes to emphasize that BRAC is not an ending but a milestone in the growth of Redstone Arsenal. And it's a milestone that continues to have an impact on the area's road network, educational systems and workforce development programs.
"Those needs are widely regarded and widely agreed to in the community," the Garrison commander said. "BRAC growth will really extend past Sept. 15, and will have second and third order effects in growing this base and the community. We have a great relationship with the community that will need to continue and I am confident will continue well after BRAC."
While the Army does have a huge influence on the area's economy, work force and industry, Hamilton knows the local industrial base needs to be diversified to remain healthy.
"The Army is always going to be one of the major employers in this area and will have influence on the types of industry in this area," he said. "But North Alabama will also continue to diversify."
At Redstone, the Garrison is still working on improvements in the infrastructure -- such as the expansion of Martin Road and Gate 7, and renovations of empty buildings near Gate 10 -- to meet the growing needs of the Arsenal's working population.
"We still have work to do to really, fully resource all the growth," he said. "And we need to look at other services affected by the evolution of the Arsenal."
The Garrison also has a master plan for the installation that accounts for growth well beyond BRAC and into the future.
"We have to be willing to receive growth," he said. "From a physical perspective, we have the capacity to grow and that can play into any decision an organization makes about coming here. The question for those organizations is 'Where is the right place to position our particular type of organization to be efficient and effective?'"
To respond to those kinds of queries, it takes more than the master planning of the Garrison's Directorate of Public Works. It also involves other Garrison directorates, such as Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation, and the Directorate of Logistics.
"We play a significant role in the partnership with each tenant organization," Hamilton said. "We work to make sure they are resourced properly to do the mission. There is a lot of dialogue to determine how to resource the organizations here, and there is a phenomenal Garrison team in place to make sure our tenant organizations are in the right place to execute their mission."