It is the end of an era at the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center, or RTC. After 36 years, RTC's technical director, David Byrd, is retiring from the organization where he spent his entire career.

Byrd's relationship with RTC began well before its existence. While studying at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, or UAH, Byrd was hired as an engineering aide contractor at what was then known as the U.S. Army Missile Command's Research, Development, and Engineering Center Test and Evaluation Directorate. A few months after graduation, he entered into federal service for the very same directorate. This organization was later realigned as the Redstone Technical Test Center, or RTTC.

Serving first as a test engineer, Byrd worked his way up through the organization where his titles included division chief, directorate chief, and in 2007, he became the RTTC director.

As part of the Base Realignment and Closure Act in August 2009, RTTC was consolidated with the Aviation Technical Test Center from Fort Rucker to form the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center, or RTC. Under the realignment, the commander of RTC became a U.S. Army aviation officer, and Byrd was named technical director.

Some of his fondest memories are the years prior to the wide usage of email, when as a mechanical engineer he could get more hands on experience with the hardware.

"One thing I won't miss is the BlackBerry! I'm going to miss the people because they became my family," Byrd said. "I'll also miss the ability to go down to the ranges and get hands on."

"When you get into leadership, you get to where it's less and less time to be able to get out there with the hardware," Byrd said. "I enjoyed the hands on -- being able to see the systems that are being developed. I can go to the labs and the ranges and the airfield and see these systems that are being built and see the technologies that are being incorporated.

"It's awesome to see how innovative our own people are on figuring out ways to test these complex systems."

Reflecting on his accomplishments at RTC, Byrd said it was always about the team.

"The biggest thing was the creation of RTC. That was a leadership challenge if you will, of bringing two organizations, two cultures together and forming what we have today," Byrd said. "Looking back, I see the synergy now, where we have labs and ranges that used to only do missile tests and are now doing missile and aviation."

"We've got people who did missile work who are now working in the aviation arena and vice versa. The expertise has intermingled and come together and the synergies that have come out of bringing the two organizations together is kind of amazing to see that all of that has happened in just eight years."

Byrd moved to the Huntsville area with his parents before he was a year old. He was educated in Huntsville schools and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from UAH in 1981. That same year he married Laura Roach, and together they raised two children in Madison County.

With the exception of a six month assignment as acting director of Test Management at the U.S. Army Developmental Test Command Headquarters at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, Byrd has never left the Huntsville area and doesn't plan to after retirement. He is planning to go on a trip with his father and do some hunting in the fall. He also intends to rediscover hobbies that got pushed to the side over the years and start work on renovation projects he's never gotten around to. But most of his time, he said, will be spent with his four grandchildren. A fifth grandchild is expected in December.

"I hate to leave the job," Byrd said. "I enjoy what I'm doing. But I've worked a long time to be able to do things in retirement, and I want to do it while I still have my health."