By Sharon Watkins Lang, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Command HistorianMay 19, 2017
Everybody loves a birthday celebration. It's a wonderful opportunity to bring together friends old and new; a chance to look back over past accomplishments and/or plan for an evolving future.
The U.S. Army Space and missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command will celebrate its 60th anniversary in October. On Oct. 3, 1957, the Army Ordnance Corps established the Redstone Anti-Missile Missile Systems Office, the first Army unit with a specified missile defense mission.
Every 10 years since, the command has come together to mark this occasion. In 1977, the command produced a documentary, "A 20-Year History of the Antiballistic Missile Program."
Ten years later, in 1987, amidst the excitement of the Strategic Defense Initiative and the successes of the Homing Overlay Experiment and the Flexible Lightweight Agile Guided Experiment, the festivities expanded.
Visitors were invited to join the celebrations which included a 10K fun run, a Volksmarch, a student essay contest, Space Camp scholarships and an exhibit at the Space and Rocket Center.
At the 30th Anniversary Dinner, the command recognized civilian employees past and present who had contributed to the success of the organization -- the foundation for the Air, Space and Missile Defense Civilian Hall of Fame now housed in the Davidson Center of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.
In 1997, the command celebrations moved to May and became a key feature in Huntsville's Armed Forces Week. The events began on Monday with a Proclamation reading at the Concerts in the Park which featured the 14th Army Band from Fort McClellan, followed by a Golf Tournament on Tuesday and concluding with a military display at the Huntsville Stars baseball game on Friday. The highlight of the week, however, was a new initiative a two-day Space and Missile Defense Symposium held at the Von Braun Civic Center.
Hosted in conjunction with the Army Space and Missile Defense Association, the anniversary symposium celebrated the command's accomplishments and sought to educated attendees on current and future programs as well as policy and treaty issues bringing together experts from across the country.
Dr. Julian Davidson, Davidson Enterprises president and former Director of the NIKE-X Development Office, hosted the first session "40 Years of Excellence" which set the stage with presentations by key leaders from the command's history.
Jake Schaefer, former executive director of the Bell Telephone Military Systems, provided a discussion of the initial Nike-Zeus, Nike-X and Safeguard programs. Retired Lt. Gen. Austin Betts, former Nike-X System Manager, followed with his presentation on the Deployment and Decommissioning of Safeguard.
William Davis, former Ballistic Missile Defense deputy program manager, then addressed the technological advances which resulted from these early programs and former commander, retired Lt. Gne. Donald Lionetti discussed the development of Army Space.
This session concluded with SMDC Command Historian Dr. James Walker's presentation and the introduction of the new command historical documentary -- "The High Ground of Freedom."
Following Lt. Gen. Edward Anderson's key note address during the 40th Anniversary luncheon, leaders from the command, then the U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command, and the Program Executive Office Air and Missile Defense provided an introduction to current programs from National, Theater, and Cruise Missile defense to Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrations and their goals for the future -- Army Systems and Technology: Primed for the 21st Century.
The first day concluded with a dinner at the officers' club and an interesting speech by the Hon. Robert Bell, special assistant to the president and senior director for defense policy/arms control and the induction of only the second group of former employees to the Space and Missile Defense Hall of Fall.
Day two focused upon the future and the command's role in the 21st Century. As the command underwent a new reorganization, key personnel explained the evolution of the organization with presentations on Army Space and Missile Defense Support to the Warfighter.
The afternoon session meanwhile focused upon the issues which were shaping the future of the Army's missile defense of the nation -- management and policy issues, affordability and arms control.
Although no specific figures exist, by all accounts the 40th Anniversary Symposium was well attended. Recognizing the value of the gathering and exchange of ideas, planning began almost immediately for the next symposium, renamed the Space and Missile Defense Conference to be held in 1998. With attendance now in the thousands including visitors from across the globe, the annual program continues to grow. What began in a small corner of the Von Braun Center now incorporates all available space.
This year the Air, Space and Missile Defense Association in conjunction with the National Defense Industrial Association-Tennessee Valley Chapter and the Air Defense Artillery Association-Huntsville Chapter will host the 20th Annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium at the Von Braun Center. Scheduled for 8-10 August 2017, the theme for this year's event is Enabling Decisive Action in a Multi-Domain Environment.