HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The Association of the U.S. Army made its way to the Tennessee Valley for the first time in its history as the 2014 AUSA Winter Symposium and Exposition was hosted at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville Feb. 19-21.

Huntsville is home of AUSA's Redstone -- Huntsville Chapter, which includes more than 2,600 military and civilian members. The featured command for the symposium was the U.S. Army Materiel Command, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal. Other commands and agencies at Redstone Arsenal supporting the conference included: U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, Missile Defense Agency, Army Aviation and Missile Command, Army Security Assistance Command, Army Contracting Command and the Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Command.

During the conference, USASMDC/ARSTRAT leaders had the opportunity to speak to those in attendance about the importance of the command's role as the Army's force modernization proponent for space, global missile defense, and high altitude, and as the Army's operational integrator for global missile defense.

"It is truly an honor for me to represent the men and women of SMDC/ARSTRAT," said Lt. Gen. David L. Mann, SMDC commanding general, as he spoke on the growing relevance and reliance on space and missile defense capabilities. "I appreciate the opportunity to discuss space and missile defense capabilities. We struggle with the continued proliferation of current technologies; especially in space, missile defense and cyber.

"As countries continue to develop space programs, this domain will become increasingly competitive, congested and contested," he added. "Ballistic missiles are becoming more flexible, more mobile, more survivable, more reliable and more accurate. Most worrisome is the range these missiles are achieving."

During Mann's time speaking to those in attendance, he also chaired a panel discussion on leveraging space for resilient and assured mission command in an anti-access area-denial environment.

"Warfighters are reliant on space more than ever before," Mann said. "More than 60 percent of the Army's systems and weapons are enabled by space systems.

"Since 1957, we've been involved in missile defense and we are committed to providing space and missile defense capabilities to support the Warfighter, the Army and our nation," he added. "SMDC is uniquely organized to provide space and missile defense. We are focused on three core tasks: operations, capability development and material development."

Reiterating what the commanding general shared, SMDC's senior enlisted adviser took a moment to explain how the AUSA conference was an opportunity to share what SMDC does for the Army.

"This was a great forum to allow our commanding general the opportunity to share his thoughts on the relevance of space and missile defense as well as its growing demand as we start looking at the next 10 to 15 years and the importance of educating others on why the Army needs to stay committed to resourcing and supporting the continued growth in the space field," said SMDC Command Sgt. Maj. James N. Ross. "We want to educate them that the threat is not going away and the missions are getting more robust and we have to ensure we have the right force structure, as well as the right systems to support the Warfighters of our nation. We also have to find the most efficient ways to accomplish our mission.

"Coming here to AUSA gives us a forum to get our message out while also allowing us to have a chance to speak with industry partners and other Army leaders. Hopefully our command will benefit from this opportunity," he added. "This is also a chance for Huntsville to be able to show the Army what a great city this is, and I believe AUSA will want to come back."

As SMDC and all the members of Team Redstone played a role in supporting AUSA during its first time to Huntsville, the organization's leader and others thanked everyone for making it a success. Leaders also thanked Huntsville for its hospitality and for reminding the Army of the importance of Redstone Arsenal and all that the surrounding communities do to support the nation.

"This week has been great and we are glad we came to Huntsville," said retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, AUSA president and 32nd Army chief of staff. "We have learned what an important place this is, and in some cases, relearned what the area, Redstone Arsenal and SMDC does for our Army.

"Huntsville has treated us magnificently. We couldn't be happier," he added. "We have received world-class treatment from beginning to end and we appreciate it very much."