AMCOM deputy moves on to new challenge
August 10, 2012
A few months ago, as Ronnie Chronister reviewed his future career possibilities and considered a move into a new leadership position, he decided to take his own advice.
Chronister, the deputy commander of the Aviation and Missile Command, is known for spearheading mentoring and leadership development programs for the command's employees. As a mentor himself, he has always stressed preparation, opportunity and experience.
So, when the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command came calling to ask about adding his name to a list of potential candidates to replace the now retired Dr. Steve Messervy as the deputy to SMDC/ARSTRAT commander Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, Chronister remembered the words he has shared with AMCOM employees.
"I tell people I mentor 'If you have an opportunity, you need to consider it,'" he said.
"In this case, I did some research into the organization, and talked to some people who work there about the organization's mission and challenges. After I laid out all the information I had gathered, I felt like my skill set would fit with what they needed."
And, with Chronister's name up for consideration for a Tier 3 senior executive service position that makes him the civilian equivalent of a three-star general, the course was set. The opportunity was offered, and his experience was a good fit. There was only one thing left to do -- prepare.
"When people don't interview well, I think it's because they don't come prepared," he said. "I did my homework for this interview. I had a sense of the challenges and opportunities of the job. I wanted them to feel like I could start tomorrow.
"When you are interviewing for a job, you need to immerse yourself with what's going on in the organization, you need to have an understanding of the organization and some of its challenges, and what you would do to help solve those challenges. At all levels, it's just basic blocking and tackling. When you interview, you have to have a plan. When I interview, I want them to get where Ronnie Chronister's heart is, who I am and what I'm about. If that doesn't resonate with them, that's OK. But they have to know I've given the opportunity my 100 percent attention."
Chronister did resonate with the SMDC/ARSTRAT leadership. He will leave AMCOM this week to assume the SMDC/ARSTRAT deputy position, charged with overseeing research, development and acquisition along with the command's operational element, Future Warfighter Center and Technical Center. He will be officially introduced at the Space and Missile Defense Conference in Huntsville next week.
"I want to hit the ground running," he said, adding that he is excited about the opportunity the conference will provide him to meet space and missile defense industry leaders.
"Every employee should be in a job that maximizes their value to the Army. You could be doing a great job, but your skill can be wasted if you are able to do more. I love what I'm doing here (at AMCOM). It's very intense and a wonderful position to be in. But I felt I could offer more value to the Army in this new position."
That's been Chronister's modus operandi since he began his engineering career with the Army 30 years ago. His accomplishments include establishing and managing the Prototype Integration Facility, a unique government owned/government operated enterprise that has garnered more than $500 million in defense business since 2002; serving as the acting director of the Engineering Directorate in the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, where he was responsible for the strategic and day-to-day management of a 700-person organization comprised of functional expertise in the areas of quality, manufacturing, industrial base support, prototyping, configuration management, reliability and automatic test equipment; and serving as executive director of AMCOM's Integrated Materiel Management Center, a 1,650-employee organization that partners with program executive officers and program managers, war fighters, and industry to develop, acquire, field and sustain worldwide logistics support, and ensure the Army's weapon systems readiness in any operation.
Chronister was appointed to the senior executive service in 2005. He assumed his current position with AMCOM in February 2008, where he manages a multifaceted and diverse organization with an annual budget of more than $6 billion, and a global work force of more than 9,500 military and civilian employees that includes depots at Letterkenny, Pa., and Corpus Christi, Texas.
"I have worked with four generals while I've been here," Chronister said. "(Then) Maj. Gen. Jim Pillsbury promoted me. He took a chance on me. He saw something in me that I don't think I saw in myself."
Chronister came into leadership at AMCOM at a time when the organization was focused on providing aviation and missile systems in support of two wars. He helped to oversee AMCOM as Pillsbury began to shape it into a more responsive, agile and operational organization. Chronister continued in that role under the command of Maj. Gen. Jim Myles, who also addressed several aviation and missile systems challenges related to in-theater support, and Maj. Gen. Jim Rogers, who continued AMCOM's role in supporting the war fighter while also working to create more efficiencies within the organization in response to federal budget cuts. He leaves AMCOM after a few months as deputy to commander Maj. Gen. Lynn Collyar.
"My development as a leader was accelerated because of having those opportunities," he said. "They are four wonderful leaders with their own unique style and differences. I learned so much from them that will help me in my new job. All four are good mentors and exceptional leaders."
When Chronister came to AMCOM there was a lack of leader and work force development programs. Since then, AMCOM has established an aggressive professional development program as well as an educational outreach program.
"We are much better, but we started from a pretty low point in my view," he said. "What encourages me is that our senior leaders all now share the same philosophy and hopefully that permeates through the organization. We are on the right track with leadership development and work force development, but we still have a long way to go. It's something you have to deal with on a daily basis or you atrophy."
Chronister views his departure from AMCOM not as causing a leadership void, but rather as creating a leadership opportunity for someone else.
"There are many who could come in and take this job to the next level. There's several whom I know who could do this job very easily," he said.
"There is a great staff here. I'm confident that we've developed a great bench of the next generation of leaders. This command has been going well. This transition (to the new command leadership) is going well. It's a testament to the work force."
Chronister is looking forward to acclimating with the battle rhythm at SMDC/ARSTRAT. He expects the new job will come with some additional traveling at first as he becomes familiar with the command's operations at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.; Fort Greely, Alaska; Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands and other locations.
"The deputy commander works in tandem with the commander. Being an operational commander requires Lt. Gen. Formica to be gone a lot. And there are challenges that must be worked through to ensure we are committed to missile defense 24/7. We will work out a battle rhythm that's best for us and the command," he said.
Under his leadership, Chronister hopes to integrate capabilities throughout SMDC/ARSTRAT's operational element, Future Warfighter Center and Technical Center.
"This is an opportunity to make an already great organization even better," Chronister said. "We need to look at how to optimize the integration of capabilities across these three main areas.
"Developing and mentoring the work force is one of my goals. This is an opportunity to take what I enjoy doing to a new organization. I want to help build trust and credibility between the war fighter and SMDC, with other commands like the Missile Defense Agency and the Strategic Command, and with various agencies we work with."
Chronister is also looking forward to further solidifying the SMDC/ARSTRAT organization as a leading participant in the Team Redstone community.
"Redstone Arsenal is by far a civilian-centric installation," he said. "It is the shining beacon for civilians working in support of our military. I am excited about the opportunity to work across commands -- specifically with AMCOM and the Army Materiel Command -- on developmenal assignments for employees and to be a major participant in Team Redstone."
Throughout his career, Chronister has developed a reputation for knowing how to build relationships. He has done that at AMCOM and hopes to use that capability at SMDC/ARSTRAT as he gets to know the engineers and scientists behind the organization's programs.
"I believe we have built the right kinds of relationships at AMCOM that we need to do the mission," he said. "Between IMMC and AMCOM, I've had seven years here. I've enjoyed the relationships I've built here and the wonderful people who I've been blessed with in my path. There's been a multitude of those blessings here."
Chronister said he is proud of the hard work that AMCOM employees have put in during the past 10 years of war.
"When I've been out talking with aviators and air defenders and I tell them where I'm from, they will without fail tell me this organization is filled with great civilians who give them the support they need," he said. "They may not know Redstone Arsenal or AMCOM, but they know our employees because we get them what they need to be successful. Through the years, AMCOM employees have adapted to the war fight, and they learned how to provide support in better and better ways."
AMCOM was the first command to fully deploy the logistics modernization program, which represented a fundamental change in logistics support. In recent years, the command has worked with Letterkenny and Corpus Christi depots in their transformation to become "best value options" that operate more like business enterprises, with its Integrated Materiel Management Center to reduce inventories across the command and with its Security Assistance Management Directorate to better support foreign military sales.
"We've integrated the foreign military sales function. It's a dynamic that has changed significantly," Chronister said. "Our partner countries are buying parts and helicopters more than ever before. SAMD is taking that dynamic and putting the workload into the depots. Our foreign military sales work will help keep our depots viable."
Chronister, who credits his success to his faith and the support of his family, said he will cherish his AMCOM experience and friendships no matter where his career takes him in the future. His parting message for AMCOM employees: job well done, mission continues.
"I am truly proud of the AMCOM employees and honored to have worked with them, and I mean that in the most genuine sense," Chronister said. "It's overwhelming for me to consider what they have done for this country.
"The challenge to them is this is a different time and we have to get better and more efficient at what we do. If we don't become more efficient, then we won't be able to give war fighters the equipment that they need; we won't have the resources to do this job. We've got to take advantage of technology so that we can operate in a more austere environment and not lose our effectiveness."