• The Army Materiel Command designed and acquired the lightweight poncho in 1967. It has been used by troops for decades. U.S. Army Photo.

    Lightweight poncho

    The Army Materiel Command designed and acquired the lightweight poncho in 1967. It has been used by troops for decades. U.S. Army Photo.

  • Computers have come a long way since 1962. But even in those early days of the Army Materiel Command, they were instrumental to the organization's
mission to provide Soldiers with the equipment and supplies they needed to
be successful. U.S. Army Photo.

    Computer

    Computers have come a long way since 1962. But even in those early days of the Army Materiel Command, they were instrumental to the organization's mission to provide Soldiers with the equipment and supplies they needed to be successful. U.S. Army Photo.

  • The M-60 machine gun from 1965 was one of the weapon systems developed by the Army Materiel Command that gave Army Soldiers the leading edge on the battlefield. U.S. Army Photo.

    M60 Machine Gun

    The M-60 machine gun from 1965 was one of the weapon systems developed by the Army Materiel Command that gave Army Soldiers the leading edge on the battlefield. U.S. Army Photo.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Fifty years of history for the Army Materiel Command can be summed up with one descriptive word -- provider.

On Aug. 1, 1962, when AMC became a full-fledged member of the Army team, its first commander, Lt. Gen. Frank Besson, said in a letter to its employees that the new organization is the first "single integrated organization specifically conceived and designed to provide the Army's weapons and equipment."

Today, that word -- provider -- is still a big word in the AMC vocabulary as this worldwide organization is the source for the power, production, process, people and performance needed to deliver the best weapons, equipment and supplies to Soldiers.

The AMC of 1962 brought together seven of the Army's major component commands -- five of those being the commodity-type commands then known as the Weapons Command, Munitions Command, Mobility Command, Missile Command and Electronics Command; and two functional-type commands known as the Supply and Maintenance Command, and the Test and Evaluation Command. Together, AMC represented about 166,000 civilian employees and 20,000 officers, a total weapons and equipment inventory of $23.5 billion and estimated annual expenditures of $7.5 billion. Its employees were located at more than 250 installations, activities, arsenals and laboratories.

Fast forward to today and AMC is headquarters for 11 major subordinate commands: the Contracting Command; Sustainment Command; Aviation and Missile Command; Communications-Electronics Command; Chemical Materials Agency; Joint Munitions and Lethality Command; Joint Munitions Command; Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command; Research, Development and Engineering Command; Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command; and Security Assistance Command. It has close to 70,000 employees representing AMC in all 50 states and in 144 countries, an annual budget of nearly $60 billion and more than $96 billion in contract obligations.

AMC is one of the Army's largest and most complex organizations. It spends nearly half of the total U.S. Army budget. It is the principal Army employer of civilian workers. The basic mission of the command is to meet the materiel needs of the Army, whether that need is for new weapon systems, new helicopters and tanks, new machine guns or new types of food.

"The AMC that was created in 1962 is an entirely different AMC than it is today," said AMC historian Mike Baker.

"From 1962 to 1988, AMC's focus was project management at its core. The heart and soul for Lt. Gen. Besson when creating this organization was creating the concept of project management where organizations were in charge of making all decisions related to a specific system. Now, the focus is on life cycle management with research and development, logistics and acquisition at its core."

Soon after its creation, AMC's new structure was put to the test, providing support almost immediately for the Cuban Missile Crisis and then, on its heels, for the Vietnam War.

"There were a lot of logistical challenges involved in support during Vietnam, and AMC and its major subordinate commands met the challenge," Baker said. "With the end of the Vietnam War, AMC started to transform itself."

During those first 10 years as a command, AMC had to its credit advanced telecommunication systems, the M-16 rifle, second generation night vision devices, the TOW missile, and advances in freeze-dried and concentrated foods.

In 1976, corporate changes at AMC were formalized with a name change to the Army Materiel Development and Readiness Command. During this time, AMC's commodity commands were broken into separate commands for research and development, and readiness.

During the 1970s and '80s, AMC was home to the Army's Big Five systems -- the Abrams main battle tank, the Bradley fighting vehicle, the Apache helicopter, the Patriot air defense system and the Black Hawk helicopter -- plus several other effective systems such as the Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, MK 19-3 40mm Grenade Machine Gun and High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle.

"It was the success of those big five systems that would be AMC's claim to fame during those years," Baker said.

On Aug. 1, 1984, on its 22nd birthday, the organization's name returned to the Army Materiel Command. The change led to a new chapter in AMC characterized by optempo support to the nation's war fighters.

With the '90s and the beginning of the 21st century, AMC systems were definitely put to the test as the Army's war fighters became more lethal, agile and expeditionary. AMC and its major subordinate commands made a critical difference in Operation Just Cause-Panama in 1991 and Operation Desert Storm/Shield in 1990/91. All total, AMC delivered more than 900,000 tons of equipment, supplies and ammunition to the war efforts.

In addition, AMC equipment and systems gained a larger profile in providing support for humanitarian and peacekeeping activities in Somalia, Haitia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo.
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, put AMC on the edge of the nation's defensive and offensive measures, with its efforts quickly mobilized to assist first responders, secure valuable assets and support deployed Soldiers. It's most impressive activity was the support its employees provided during Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan beginning in 2001 and Operation Iraqi Freedom beginning in 2003. The organization also took on a high profile in supporting humanitarian efforts after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Haiti natural disasters in 2010 and the Japanese tsunami in 2011.

"During the past 10 years, AMC has continued to grow is reputation as its supported war fighters on two fronts while at the same time keeping up with peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts throughout the world and managing the changes resulting from the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations," Baker said.

Throughout its history, Baker said the operative words for AMC have been readiness, support and development as its employees have worked to provide Soldiers with the best in equipment, weapon systems and supplies.

"The leadership at AMC has been key to its success, starting with Lt. Gen. Besson, who led the organization for eight years," Baker said. "All of its leaders have brought in skills that have been needed in leading this massive organization. Whatever AMC has had to deal with, its leadership and its employees have been able to adjust and respond."

Interestingly, throughout the years, AMC has been successful despite not having its own permanent home. When it was created, the organization was temporarily headquartered at Temporary Building 7 at what is now the Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. In 1973, it moved into a contractor-owned building at 5001 Eisenhower Boulevard in Alexandria, Va. With the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that led to the need to move Army commands onto installations, AMC was moved to Fort Belvoir, Va., where most of its employees were housed in portables.

"At Redstone Arsenal, AMC has been given its first permanent facility," Baker said.

Today, AMC's reputation as a provider has stood solid as the Army and its missions have evolved and adapted to meet an ever-changing military environment. Since its creation, AMC has developed everything from rations to rifles, helmets to helicopters, and bullets to missiles as it fulfulls the role of providing materiel (equipment and supplies) to the Army's war fighters.

That's not too bad for an organization that was once described by Besson, its first commander, as an organization of employees who "operate the hardware store and fireworks concession."

Editor's Note: This is part one of AMC's 50th anniversary series which will include insight from each decade and comments from people who worked with AMC throughout the years.

Page last updated Wed August 1st, 2012 at 00:00