McGuiness says goodbye to Natick
September 5, 2012
NATICK, Mass. -- He was a Yankees fan in Red Sox territory, a longtime infantryman operating in the world of Army research and development.
Still, Brig. Gen. John J. McGuiness left an indelible mark on Natick Soldier Systems Center in his 16 months as its senior commander, which come to an end with his Sept. 14 change-of-responsibility ceremony. Dr. Jack Obusek will take over for McGuiness, who moves on to become Program Executive Officer, Ammunition, and commanding general at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.
"What the workforce has done in a year has been phenomenal in terms of awards, the support to Soldiers, the collective feeling of collaboration," McGuiness said. "I had in my mind a certain … high standard of what I expected from the civilians here. By and large, they've totally exceeded that."
His relatively short tenure here featured an extraordinarily large number of highlights, including visits by Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Heidi Shyu, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, and congressional staffers.
"Every time we have a visitor come through and we take him or her to different organizations," said McGuiness, "they get the same message of collaboration, not only within the installation, but also with industry and academia."
On May 10, 2011, McGuiness arrived at Natick to become the first general officer to reside here full time in eight years. Though he was often TDY as U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command deputy commanding general, he still managed to visit all six New England states.
"That was my mission," said McGuiness, who has a bookcase in his office filled with New England memorabilia. "It's been fantastic. The people have been absolutely amazing."
No matter where he went, McGuiness tirelessly told the Natick story.
"We weren't going to be quiet," McGuiness said. "Natick has a great story to tell. It's a story not about things, but of the people and the contributions of the workforce here to the joint force, the joint war fight, what that has been and what that will be in the future. I keep telling the folks here that we haven't even stepped it up yet."
McGuiness said that each day he came through the gate at NSSC, he tried to view the installation through the same lens as its workforce, not as its senior commander.
"If I am a worker at Natick … what has to happen for this place to improve?" McGuiness said. "Every day I thought about what we could do here collectively to improve the working conditions, the living conditions, of this installation. And so that's what I try to go by."
McGuiness pointed to upgrades made to the physical plant at Natick.
"Like I told the Secretary of the Army, we have world-class employees, we demand world-class research, and we put folks in third-world … offices and labs, and that's not right," McGuiness said. "So we've gone about being able to make the facilities a little bit better. We're continuing to do that."
McGuiness returns to Picatinny, where he previously served as Infantry Systems Officer and as Assistant Product Manager (Mortars).
"I'm an infantryman, and so my assignments, up to that point, had been all Soldier oriented in the sense that I had been in infantry units -- not on a staff but leading Soldiers at the very basic level," McGuiness said. "And I did that for a long time as a platoon leader and as a company commander."
At Picatinny, McGuiness, a U.S. Military Academy graduate who served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, learned to work with civilians.
"It forever changed my perception … of civilians," McGuiness said. "I was just floored by the quality of civilians that were there."
McGuiness said he also found high-quality civilians at Natick, though they greeted him with a Bronx cheer in his first town hall, when he announced that he was a Yankees fan.
"But since then, I've run into a lot of Yankee fans," said McGuiness, who likely will meet many more in New Jersey.
"I'm just really happy that I had an opportunity to be stationed here," McGuiness said. "Both (my wife) Gail and I were very, very happy. It's just been great. I really enjoyed it.
"I hope that I made a difference here."