By Kari Hawkins, Redstone Rocket StaffJanuary 29, 2009
As a general officer, there is one duty that makes Maj. Gen. Jim Myles question his effectiveness as a military leader.
That duty: serving at the funeral of a young Soldier.
During a speech to members of the Tennessee Valley Chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association at its annual membership dinner Thursday night at the Huntsville Marriott, Myles spoke about the recent deaths of Pfc. Ricky Turner, 20, of Athens, who was killed in Iraq when an improvised explosive device struck a vehicle he was riding in, and Staff Sgt. Josh Rath, 22, of Decatur, who was killed when his dismounted patrol was hit by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
Representing the Army at funerals for heroes like these two Soldiers "is something you never forget," Myles said. "You stand in front of the Soldier and their family and you wonder 'Have I done enough', Was there something I could have done', Could I have stopped this' What can I do to keep it from happening again''"
It's those questions that drive Myles and the entire Army as it works to develop military systems to protect the nation's "most valuable treasure" as they defend America's freedoms.
"It's about the Soldier. It's about the families. It's about making a difference," Myles said. "It's all about Soldiers whose actions make this country great, the United States of America."
As the commander of Redstone Arsenal and the Aviation and Missile Command, Myles went on to tell NDIA members that Alabama's legislature, its community leaders and its residents understand the importance of the military and its Soldiers.
"I care a lot about what happens in Alabama," he said. "But I, frankly, care more about Soldiers. This state cares for Soldiers. The team led by our elected officials here makes a difference for our Soldiers. How lucky, lucky we (Redstone Arsenal and its Soldiers and employees) are to be in a position here to enjoy the leadership of our local leaders. We've got continued superb leadership in this community."
Myles likened Redstone Arsenal, AMCOM and the entire local military community as being as close as 35 miles to Baghdad, Iraq in its impact on warfighter effectiveness. He also praised the work the Space and Missile Defense Command in the use of missile defense systems to keep Soldiers and Americans safe against varied threats.
"For me to be part of this team, I'm 'Hooah,' I'm flat 'Hooah' about that," he said.
Myles gave his audience a glimpse at the nation's military might throughout the world. There are 1.1 million Soldiers in the Army, of those 500,000 are active Army and 550,000 are Reserve and National Guard. He said 250,000 Soldiers are deployed throughout the world to maintain stability and promote democracy.
"When we put Soldiers on the ground -- our most valuable asset -- it's hard to pull them out," Myles said. "It's like Velcro ... They are doing the Lord's work ... When you put boots on the ground wonderful things happen. They instill peace and confidence."
The Army's ideal standard for deployments puts Soldiers on a three-year cycle -- a year of training for deployment, a year of deployment, a year of recovery from deployment, and then it starts again.
But, with the war stretching the Army's manpower thin, "the deployment standard right now is one to one," he said. "Most of our Soldiers have deployed three times in the last six years. That's our uptempo. For an Army aviator, they spend 10 months back from deployment and then they are deployed again because this is a helicopter war in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Currently, there is one aviation brigade in Afghanistan. That situation will increase to two brigades when the 82nd Aviation Brigade is deployed this spring, a deployment that has been moved up by about five months.
"The families are asking all the right questions: 'What about our summer vacation' What about graduation' What about the birth of our baby'' This is what's going on with our families," Myles said, explaining that deployments put numerous stresses on families, especially when a deployment is sped up.
There are some things, though, that have made deployments easier on Soldiers and their families. The Army, communities and Vietnam veterans have all found ways to support families in times of deployments. Myles also pointed out that technology -- cell phones, Internet and web cams -- have made deployments more manageable.
Providing support is needed at a time when Soldiers and families are asked to sacrifice greatly for their country. In addition, DoD civilians and contractors are crucial in AMCOM's work to equip Soldiers to keep them safe and effective on the battlefield.
"Your Army is values based. Your Army is courageous. Your Army is fearless ... Your Army is stopping people who want to prevent us from our way of life," Myles said. "We're stressed. We're out of balance ... But you are helping us by giving Soldiers on the ground what they need for combat operations. You are lethal. You are making a difference. Your Army mission is to do one thing -- to train and equip Soldiers to be ready to deploy."
In the field, Soldiers are the nation's tool to engage, deter, prevent and compel so that freedoms are protected around the world. To support the nation's "very best and most valued treasure," AMCOM and its contractors must sustain, prepare, reset and transform the missile systems and equipment needed by the Soldier.
"It costs $1 million to take a Black Hawk (out of war) and reset it so that it is ready to go back into battle," Myles said. "I can say the same for an M-1 tank and an MRAP (a new military vehicle that is highly effective in protecting Soldiers from IEDs)."
"At AMCOM, we develop the best equipment. The secretary of the Army has said this place called Redstone in the Tennessee Valley is a national treasure where magic happens. That's code for 'You love Soldiers and make things happen.'"
In fiscal 2008, Redstone Arsenal managed $27 billion in contracts, up from $13 billion the year before. Foreign military sales out of Redstone Arsenal reached $3 billion in fiscal 2008, and will more than double in 2009.
"You have a 50-year reputation that started when the nation looked to Redstone Arsenal (to use its rockets to launch man into space) and you continue to deliver," Myles said.
There is a potential to reach $58 billion in foreign military sales during the coming year if the U.S. can capitalize on opportunities. Nations throughout the world would like to purchase U.S.-made systems such as Patriot, CRAM, Avenger, Huey helicopters, Raven, Shadow, Sentinel, HIMARS and MLRS.
"The Iraqi army wants to buy lightweight helicopters to defend their country. They have an order in for 24 and want to increase that to 26 more. And we want them to have those helicopters so they can defend their own country," Myles said. "Those helicopters will be built and produced right here in this community."
Myles also talked to NDIA members about BRAC and the movements of such organizations as the Army Materiel Command and the Missile Defense Agency to Redstone Arsenal. Although all construction is on time, there are challenges concerning work force, schools, medical care and roads that must be addressed.
"This is the largest economic engine to hit the state of Alabama. And I didn't say that. The University of Alabama said that in a report they released," Myles said, adding it is the community's and industry's responsibility to educate its work force to take on the employment and leadership opportunities the Army is bringing to the area.
During the NDIA membership meeting, the organization's new officers were inducted for 2009. They are: Edward Stone, president; Robert Darnell, immediate past president; Terry Tipton, executive vice president and president-elect; Robert Wilkie, vice president for external operations; Ray Bouldin, vice president for membership; Tara Ragan Ward, vice president for programs; Cristina Hinkle, vice president for awards; Pam Caruso, vice president communications; Bob English, secretary; and Paul Freeman, treasurer.