By Kari Hawkins, AMCOM Public AffairsSeptember 21, 2016
Aviation and Missile Command leaders reached out to the Army's air defense community at AMCOM headquarters Sept. 7-9 to provide them with information and networking opportunities that will further enable the Army's missile systems readiness.
Reviewing a report that shows rates of well over 90 percent for the Army's missile systems' readiness, AMCOM commander Maj. Gen. Douglas Gabram told the nearly 100 Soldiers attending AMCOM 101 for Air Defense that "we look pretty good. But are we as good as we think we are? Are we as strong as we need to be behind those numbers? When the chief (chief of staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley) talks about readiness, the question for you is: Are we ready to fight tonight? You all have different lanes and touch different things. Have you done everything you can to ensure we are ready to fight tonight?"
Those questions are vital to national security, Gabram said, citing recent developments in North Korea, Ukraine, Russia, China and Iran, and the threats of international terrorism.
"You all execute your craft every day," Gabram said. "That's important because the world out there is very dangerous. Things could go bad quickly," he said. "There's great experience in this room. But, what we face today is a lot more dangerous than 1984 when I came into the Army … Bad things can happen that could change the American way of life."
Gabram wasn't the only general officer to express his appreciation to the air defenders. So, too, did Lt. Gen. David L. Mann, commanding general, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, who also praised AMCOM's role in bringing the Army's air defense community together.
"AMCOM has really done a phenomenal job to get after our readiness," Mann said at the symposium. "It's good to come together as a community, as a team because this is a team sport. No one entity can execute all by itself … We are all in this together. We are partnered with AMCOM, which has proven to be so valuable."
Mann said that air defenders have "one of the highest operational readiness rates ever achieved. You are incredibly important to make us ready. AMCOM has the lead with the defense community. The chief has made readiness the number one priority. The team here at AMCOM is truly committed to getting after it and ensuring readiness."
The heat and dust of southwest Asia does have an effect on the operational readiness of missile systems, and they were never meant for the optempo of 15 years in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the work AMCOM has done to provide a respite from scorching heat and dust, Mann said, "has gone a long way to keeping up operational readiness."
Because of that operational readiness, missile systems and the air defenders who operate them are in high demand with combatant commanders.
"Air and missile defense probably has not received more visibility in my 35 years than it has right now," Mann said. "When deployed, these systems are strategically important, and are a reflection on how your capability has really gained traction."
The Patriot and Theater High Altitude Air Defense missile systems are often put in harm's way to defend the nation's interest and allies, and their success has created a high demand for more of these systems, the three-star general said.
When making investments in equipment, the U.S. has the best Army infantry, armor and aviation, the best Navy and the best Air Force in the world. But air and missile defense is the answer, he said.
"It is easier to get hold of missile technology and with missiles you don't have to be close to the enemy to have an impact," Mann said. "We need to make necessary investments in air and missile defense. It is important to improve our missile defense capabilities. We need to concentrate on increasing the number of systems and on their readiness, especially with the Patriot force. We must maintain a stable funding environment to ensure adequate support for our deployed forces."
"Our forces will probably stay deployed for the forseeable future because of the geopolitical environment and because of our agreements with allies," he added.
The three priorities for air and missile defense are: protection of the homeland, support for deployed forces and allies, and leveraging technology to stay ahead of the threat.
The air and missile defense mission must be at its best to help combatant commanders as well as to address global missile defense issues and to maximize integration of U.S. assets with allied assets.
"I feel very optimistic about the future of this branch," Mann said. "You are building capabilities. Thank you for your service. The fact that you are on this team shows your commitment and your character."
In closing comments, Gabram said the Army and the air defense community needs Soldiers who will step up and lead.
"If not you, then who's going to lead? This is not branch specific. It's across the Army," he said. "Pride in ownership and getting back to basics is important."
Gabram urged the air defenders to turn to their logistics assistance representatives for assistance with issues that can be addressed by AMCOM. He also emphasized the importance of corrosion prevention, calibration, submitting the proper equipment reports, adequate management of the Supply Support Activity for each missile unit and reaching out to AMCOM when necessary.
But, most importantly, Gabram said that air defenders need to find the right balance between their professional and personal lives.
"If we don't have the Soldier and the DA civilian in the fight, then we don't have a need for all this equipment. We need you," he said. "Carve out time for your families. It's really important."
Those words of support were appreciated by Chief Warrant Officer Benjamin Schunn, who is assigned to a THAAD unit at Fort Hood, Texas.
"I'm really new to the whole air defense community so this was overall really great. I liked hearing the perspective from the leadership's stand point," Schunn said. "This has definitely been worthwhile."
On the tours of Redstone programs, Schunn was especially interested in the software development for the Multi Mission Launcher being managed by the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jeff Willingham, who is the Air Defense Artillery proponent warrant officer at Fort Sill, Okla., appreciated the information provided on AMCOM's programs and the AMCOM enterprise as well as the networking opportunities to build working relationships with AMCOM and fellow air defenders.
"It's good to be able to put a face with a name. I've been very impressed with Maj. Gen. Gabram's participation. Seeing how important this is to him adds a lot of credibility to everything we've heard and seen while we've been here," Willingham said.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kevin Jenkins of the Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) product office at the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space, said AMCOM 101 allows air defenders to experience the missile enterprise first hand.
"This is the warfighter's opportunity to see how maintenance processes and the support structure is built up behind the scenes at AMCOM to support them," Jenkins said. "Seeing the product development and life cycle management, and how AMCOM is part of that gives everyone a better understanding of how the support structure works behind the scenes."