NATICK, Mass. (Dec. 9, 2016) -- "Roll Tide!"

During his brief tenure as senior commander of Natick Soldier Systems Center, Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Todd III was known to utter those words, most closely associated with the wildly successful Crimson Tide football team at the University of Alabama in his hometown of Tuscaloosa. Now, a little more than a year after arriving in New England, the career Army aviator returns to Alabama's familiar red clay at Redstone Arsenal.

Todd, also deputy commander of Research, Development and Engineering Command, had come to Natick from Redstone, where he was project manager, Utility Helicopters, Program Executive Office, Aviation. He will head back there as Program Executive Officer, Aviation, after turning over the reins at NSSC Jan. 5 to Brig. Gen. Anthony W. Potts.

"The 14 tenant units we've got here, they've come together and formed what we call 'Team Natick' over the last year, which is really exciting to see," Todd said. "I hope it continues. It's only as good as they'll make it."

When Todd came to that team in November 2015, it marked his first New England experience.

"This was on top of my list," Todd said of NSSC. "Part of it was geography. This area interested us.

"The opportunity to be a senior commander at an installation's a big deal. To be the NSSC commander is a big deal. And also (to) get to be a deputy commanding general is a big deal. So the job responsibilities were appealing."

Todd wasn't quite sure what awaited him at Natick, however.

"In general terms, I had no idea what to expect," Todd said. "I had not served a tour of duty in science and technology. I had worked with science and technology labs but not served a tour of duty in RDECOM or in a lab area like this."

He quickly established workforce safety as his No. 1 priority, which led to the building of a new front gate. Quality of life became another priority, and improvements to other facilities, such as Hunter Auditorium, followed.

"I want people to want to work here for our Soldiers," Todd said. "That's kind of the quality-of-life measure that I use. Do people want to be here?

"As we try to recruit new talent, they're going to look for campus-like environments. They're going to look for quality of life."

Toward that end, military construction dollars are flowing through the pipeline to build new on-post housing.

"That's a watershed event," said Todd, "because what it does is it signifies commitment to the mission here, commitment to the installation, commitment to the team -- by the Army."

Todd expects the Natick team to be in the forefront of human performance optimization for the Army in the years ahead.

"We believe that we should be the lead in that regard in terms of research," Todd said. "I've seen the big oak tree (that is NSSC), but I didn't realize the massive root structure. The root structure is all our partners in this area."

Academic partners such as MIT, Tufts and the University of Massachusetts Lowell have all made significant investments in collaborations with NSSC.

"If you uproot the tree, then guess what? You've got to (find) somewhere else in the world to invest all that money," said Todd, "and it's not going to happen overnight.

"This is the Soldier center for research. And anybody that wants to do it needs to come here, because this is where it's all put together. It's a team already. It's achieving goals already."

Now Todd returns to program management for aviation, which he said he loves even more than flying helicopters.

"I liked being able to effect change on that platform that was going to be used by our sons and daughters," Todd said. "So getting to go back to that is something very near and dear to my heart."

He will be reunited with family in Alabama, where he will root for the state university's upcoming NCAA football championship run.

"I did not go (to Alabama), just because everybody in my family had gone there," said Todd, a graduate of The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. "I'm still a big Alabama fan. I've got 'Roll Tide' written on the inside of my Citadel ring."

Todd departs with a newfound love of this area and its Red Sox.

"We're already calling New England our second home," Todd said. "We love New Englanders, in particular."

NSSC will soon be in his rearview mirror, but he will remember its people and what they accomplished here.

"Number one, I want to thank those that I worked with so closely every day, both here and at RDECOM headquarters," Todd said. "I could not have done it without my fantastic staff -- also, the executive leadership council here of all the senior leaders of all the tenant organizations coming together as one group. We did say this at the very beginning: We can all do great things separately, but we can do greater things together."

Todd said he hoped that the NSSC team would continue its commitment to Soldier success.
"I wish the entire group here Godspeed because, ultimately, we've got a lot of young 18 to 25 year olds, on average, in faraway places," Todd said. "It's such austere conditions they live in and work in. They do it unselfishly.

"So I would just ask our team to continue being great, because they are. And I look forward to seeing what they do in the future."