WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As the leader of an Army organization that is 96 percent civilian, the commanding general of the Army Materiel Command, Gen. Dennis L. Via, shared his unique perspective at the Association of the United States Army Civilian Professional Development Seminar here Oct. 23.

"Wherever you find Soldiers, you'll find Army civilians nearby," Via told the audience at the association's annual meeting before a breakout into panel discussions that included AMC Executive Deputy to the Commanding General John B. Nerger.

Via said that's the reason visitors to AMC headquarters in Redstone Arsenal, Ala., see two things upon their entrance: the Soldiers Creed and the Civilian Creed.

"We want everyone at AMC and everyone who visits, to know our Soldiers and civilians share the same values, the same mission, and that they serve shoulder to shoulder wherever and whenever the nation calls," Via said.

The general said he has had the privilege of seeing Army civilians in action across the country in factories, laboratories and even on the battlefield.

"I've always been impressed by their professionalism, skills and experience, their commitment, their patriotism and most of all their willingness to serve."
Via mentioned several AMC employees by name, applauding their efforts and contributions to the warfighter.

During a visit to Watervliet Arsenal, N.Y., the sole producer of cannon tubes for the entire military, Via met machinist Ryan Putnam.

"Ryan is so skilled that he can straighten the cannon tubes by listening to the sound they make when pressed with up to 900-tons of pressure," Via said. "That level of experience is nearly irreplaceable."

Other employees mentioned include:
• Lisa Dutton, quality assurance specialist providing oversight to the production of 40MM high explosive dual purpose ammunition
• Keith Rainwater, heavy mobile equipment repairer, recently returned from 23-month deployment to Afghanistan
• Devan Cowans, certified machinist, recently returned from Kuwait
• Heath Carr, machinist, recently returned from Kuwait
• John Clark, small arms repairer, recently returned from Afghanistan
• Christopher Hurley, electronics engineer developing smaller, lighter cost-effective power sources for Soldiers
• Cindy Learn, systems engineer working the hard-to-fit mask program
• Alan Samuels, research chemist recently honored by the White House as a "Champion of Change" for his work while deployed in Afghanistan

Civilians also make sacrifices to the war effort and 15 Army civilians have paid the ultimate price in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Via recalled the sacrifice of Linda J. Villar, an AMC employee who volunteered to deploy to Iraq in 2005. Villar, who served as the chief of the 3rd Infantry Division's Logistics Support Element, was killed in a mortar attack June 3, 2005.

"These are your Army civilians," Via said. "Simply put, our Army and our entire joint force couldn't accomplish its mission without them, without you."

The past year has been challenging for our Army, and especially our Army civilians. Via said as the number of Soldiers decrease, so will the number of support personnel. He encouraged the audience to look at this as a challenge and an opportunity to responsibly shape the Army for 2020.

"We have to be creative; we have to be innovative; we have to be bold and visionary," he said. "We must offer those innovative solutions that in the past met with resistance."

Via mentioned several examples, such as increasing Voluntary Separation Incentive payments, removing impediments to part-time labor, developing multi-functional position descriptions, improving our intern and fellowship programs and incorporating programs to better take care of employees. He said the solutions will come from the civilian corps.

"We've been through times like these before. Great periods of transformation have always been challenging," he said. "Every time, our Army and our nation emerged stronger than before."