By Kari HawkinsSeptember 29, 2017
When Capt. Quinton Watkins runs in the Association of the U.S. Army Ten-Miler race next week, he will be representing not only Redstone Arsenal and the Aviation and Missile Command, but also the running community in Huntsville and North Alabama.
Watkins, who commands AMCOM's Headquarters and Headquarters Co., is a homegrown Huntsville runner, officially competing in his first local race as a 13-year-old. Many years have gone by since then and his military service has taken him many miles away from his hometown, but Watkins' roots still run deep in this community.
"All my family are here," he said. "And, my wife's family is from south Alabama. So, this is home. I never thought I'd be stationed here at Redstone Arsenal because I am airborne qualified. But, my wife - Maj. Amanda Watkins -- is an acquisition officer so Redstone Arsenal became an option as a permanent change of station."
Huntsville family includes Watkins' mother and father, who both work on Redstone Arsenal, and his grandmother and several other extended family members.
"Our six-year-old daughter is getting to spend time with her great grandmother, and there are family members who are willing to help out if we need a sitter or have to be away from home. That means a lot to us," Watkins said.
"The hardest part about being a dual military couple with a child is that there are times when we have to be really focused on work and when work may take us both away from home at the same time. This is a 24/7 job. But, when you have a child, there is still homework that has to be done, bath time every night and all the things that go with raising a daughter. It's nice to have our family near to help us when we need it."
Watkins and his wife came to Redstone Arsenal in 2015. Watkins' wife is assigned to the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space while Watkins, a Human Resources officer, first worked for the Army Contracting Command before assuming command of AMCOM HHC about four months ago. The couple has been members of the Army's Married Army Couple Program since they married in 2009, with the Army making it a priority to provide assignments that allow them to be co-located.
As the AMCOM HHC commander, Watkins is charged with overseeing the personnel actions for about 700 Soldiers serving at AMCOM and throughout Army organizations at Redstone Arsenal, and providing personnel strength to ensure the right number of Soldiers to accomplish the mission. The job is unique in that the Soldier force includes Soldiers of all ranks and in various military occupational specialties.
"A lot of high-ranking Soldiers makes the job more interesting," Watkins said. "It's also the type of job where I can shape my own destiny, where I can plan how we will support Soldiers and the kinds of programs we will offer. I've been given my left and right limits, but in my own lane I'm free to plan how I want to run AMCOM HHC.
"This is a broadening assignment for me. This is one of the best times of my life. Taking command is one of the greatest privileges you can bestow upon an officer, and it's an honor to command HHC AMCOM."
A 1998 Butler High School graduate, Watkins attended Alabama A&M University for a year before leaving college to enlist in the Navy.
"I really didn't know what I wanted to do at the time. I was majoring in Marketing, and just sort of coasting along. I decided to join the military to get some money for college and to travel," he said.
Navy life took Yeoman Second Class Watkins to Greece, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Portugal and Slovania. He deployed in 2002 on the U.S.S. George Washington to the Persian Gulf, where his ship provided support during the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His longest stretch at sea was for 54 days on an aircraft carrier.
After four years on ships, Watkins was ready to be landlocked long enough to return to Alabama A&M, where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in Urban Planning, served as a sergeant in the Alabama National Guard and commissioned as an Army officer from A&M's ROTC program. He also met his wife at Alabama A&M and they had been friends in college. A few years after she graduated and entered Army service, she returned to Huntsville for a visit and the two met each other again.
"She is a year ahead of me in her career, so she will always outrank me and I will follow her career," Watkins said. "But, I've been fortunate to always have a good job no matter where she has been assigned. We have really been blessed."
Watkins chose to follow a Human Resources career in both the Navy and the Army because it allows him to make a difference for service members and their families. He has served in the Army for about seven years, with assignments at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; and with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
"I wanted to go to the 82nd Airborne. Every Soldier in the 82nd Airborne is expected to jump at least once every three months," Watkins said.
"I wanted to do something different and this was it. That's how I became a paratrooper and qualified airborne. The first jump in Division was out of a Black Hawk. It was my first and only jump out of a helicopter. I definitely enjoyed my time in the 82nd. It helped me deal with fear and made me a better leader."
He deployed with the 82nd Airborne to Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, in 2012. While there, Watkins served as the Human Resource officer for the 508th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, and also was responsible for managing the battalion's Afghan interpreter workforce.
Throughout his military career, Watkins has been a runner, often running alongside his wife. The two have run in several local races, including the Cotton Row 10K Run in Huntsville and the Mercedes Benz Half Marathon in Birmingham.
"I like to push myself. Running kind of translates to my job. There are times in running when I want to stop or run a little slower. But I have to keep pushing and working hard. It's the same kind of thing with my job," Watkins said.
On Oct. 8, Watkins will be running with Team Redstone as a member of the Government Agency Division. It will be his second year to run with the team, and his third time to run the race. In 2016, he finished in about 64 minutes and placed at about 400 out of 29,000 runners, a finish that helped Team Redstone win its division.
"We won the 10th perennial championship in our division," Watkins said. "Last year, I really didn't know what to expect. But I did know that we had to win to keep the tradition going.
"This year, I've looked at the course online to see the layout and all the elevations. I've done more planning on how to run it. Everyone says it's a fast course and I believe it because I performed a lot better last year than I expected. I'm hoping for another good time this year."
Watkins' preparations have included running about 35 miles a week and running on Saturdays with the team. He mixes up his running challenges, running at intervals where a runner runs a mile at about 90 percent speed and then rests four minutes and then repeats; at tempo where a runner runs a in a steady state for about 20 to 30 minutes, and on long runs for anywhere from eight to 12 miles.
"We have some really good runners on the team. Some run as much as 70 or 75 miles a week," he said. "Running in a big race like the Army Ten Miler takes a lot of preparation."
This year's Redstone team is a mix of veterans and several new runners. Each is committed to ensuring a win for Team Redstone, Watkins said.
Among Watkins' teammates is Capt. Austin Cheng, who works in AMCOM's JAG office. Redstone MWR and the Redstone/Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army are team sponsors.
"All of us realize we have a winning tradition and we want to continue winning championships," he said. "Knowing that has encouraged all of us to keep running and practicing, and to run that extra mile when we think we can't go any farther."