REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- "My name is Richardson and I'm a Soldier."
Those were the words of introduction spoken by Maj. Gen. Jim Richardson on Sept. 9 to open his first town hall as the commander of the Aviation and Missile Command.
And following his informal introduction, he told the nearly packed Bob Jones Auditorium one thing: "Thank you."
"Every day you sit in your office and you make things happen, and everything this organization does is about the Soldier," he said.
"It becomes routine to you coming to work every day. You have no idea of the effect you are having on our Soldiers. I'm just a simple Soldier and I have been the recipient of the hard work of those sitting here today, and at the depots and arsenals (of AMCOM). Thank you. You are making a difference every single day."
Richardson knows that effect. He saw it during six deployments to the war zone. He experienced it flying Apache helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan during his 3,400 combat hours. And he heard it in talking to combatant commanders and Soldiers who rely on AMCOM field representatives and employees at Redstone to respond quickly when parts for aviation and missile systems are needed in support of the mission.
Richardson opened the town hall with a clip from the "Restrepo" video, a 2010 documentary made in the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan by two journalists embedded with the Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. The documentary shows the might of the missile and aviation systems that Soldiers used during the platoon's battle.
During his last deployment, Richardson was asked by Army chief of staff Gen. Raymond Odierno where he would like to be assigned next. He chose AMCOM.
Richardson told Odierno, "I want to give back to what was given to me. I want to go to AMCOM. My units, my Soldiers would have failed in their mission if it hadn't been for AMCOM."
Missiles and aviation have long been the center of gravity for the Army in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. Every mission has involved missiles and/or aviation systems, he said.
"Soldiers on the ground can't do without it," the Army aviator said of the impact of Army aviation in a war zone. "They won't go on a mission without us and we won't go on a mission without you (AMCOM)."
As a brigade commander, Richardson recalled when his unit had 157 aircraft "shot up," but those aircraft quickly returned to the fight thanks to the support of AMCOM with parts and repairs.
"Don't stop. Keep working every day. You're making a difference every single day. You're making a difference in those Soldiers lives. I've seen it up close and firsthand," Richardson said.
The AMCOM workforce, he said, is one of professionals who share three characteristics: competence, commitment and high character. Together, those three traits lead to trust both among co-workers and in the leadership.
"On the battlefield, you have to trust your buddy that he or she will be there for you. At AMCOM, you've got to be able to trust your leaders. … You have to be able to rely on your leadership and you've got to be able to trust that everyone is competent," he said.
Richardson wants to build trust in leadership and leadership cohesion at AMCOM. He hopes to do this through communication and consistency in enforcing policies, as well as leadership and employee development.
Richardson has spent the first 70 days as AMCOM's commander visiting the organization's employees working in such locations as Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas; Letterkenny Army Depot, Pennsylvania; Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Fires Center of Excellence; and Fort Rucker Aviation Center of Excellence, to learn about the different aspects of the organization.
He commented on the "unbelievable competence" of employees and the employee "skills sets that are absolutely amazing."
"It's overwhelming. It's wowing," he said.
Those employees serve an Army, a profession of arms, that today consists of 513,000 active duty Soldiers, 195,000 Reserve Soldiers and 354,000 National Guard Soldiers serving in 150 countries. Of those, 85,630 Soldiers are forward stationed with 65,070 currently deployed (29,500 in Afghanistan, and 10,000 in Kuwait and others in Qatar, Jordan, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Horn of Africa and other locations). In addition, 259,000 Department of the Army civilians are deployed.
Though there will be future downsizing in the Army force, Richardson said "the pace isn't slowing down. The force may go down a little bit, but the pace is not slowing down."
During his 70-day review, Richardson assessed the following about AMCOM: Support to the war fighter: "Our support is solid!"; Rebalancing to meet combatant commander requirements: "Great progress with lots to do!"; Preserving the industrial base: "Doing well but we have work to do."; Optimizing the supply chain: "Great accomplishments, but room to grow"; Health of the force: "Our workforce is our greatest strength"; and Audit readiness: "Major challenge, but we will be ready by end of FY 2017."
AMCOM, he said, will continue to be a game changer as it supports the Army's goals of supporting the war fighter, taking care of its people and developing the workforce, and preparing for change.
Toward that end, AMCOM directors worked together to establish both a mission and vision in support of the Department of the Army and Department of Defense. The AMCOM mission is: Provide optimized and responsive Aviation, Missile and Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment (TMDE) sustainment support to the joint war fighter to enable readiness at the point of need. The AMCOM vision is: A values based organization -- people first, Soldiers always -- enabling readiness to meet the emerging global requirements of the foint force.
"The vision is about you, about enabling readiness across the force," Richardson told the AMCOM employees. "This organization is not about me. This organization is all about you. It's about passion for the job, and it's about people, about recruiting the right people, about teaching and developing."
AMCOM's strategic priorities are: Strengthen the winning culture of our team; Enable unit and equipment readiness for aviation and missile systems in support of the joint war fighter; Corpus Christi and Letterkenny depots, as part of the Army's organizational industrial base, are national treasures with unique capability that must remain viable through optimization; and Execute good stewardship of resources through command initiatives, metrics and communication.
Richardson is committed to being a hands-on leader, to being connected to the workforce and to understanding what it will take to move AMCOM forward in its mission.
"I will be walking around and talking to people," he said. "I'm a people person. I have no agenda. What you see is what you get. I make mistakes. I expect you to tell me when something is wrong.
"We're going to get better every single day. That's what I expect. We're going to raise the bar. We're going to support the Soldier on the ground. That's what I know. That's where I came from."