By Amy Gukeen Tolson (Redstone Rocket Assistant Editor)October 25, 2017
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- To the young men and women seated around the room, the faces on the screen could easily have been one of them.
And if they continue to pursue their career goals, one day they very well may be.
Lt. Gen. James Dickinson spoke to members of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Young Professionals at their symposium at the University of Alabama in Huntsville Oct. 18, providing them with some personal and professional advice, in addition to an overview of his mission as the commander of the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command and Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense. As part of his remarks, Dickinson showed the group a picture of the men and women who helped design the Warfighter Assisting Low earth orbit Tracker, the ground antenna for SMDC's newest small satellite, Kestrel Eye. Many of the engineers pictured were young professionals just like themselves.
"Opportunities are knocking," Dickinson said. "Right here in the Tennessee Valley, and the greater Huntsville/Madison community, we are creating a high-energy center of excellence, a center of excellence for young professional engineers and scientists to reflect, share ideas, while working together to develop concepts and new technologies that will enhance our ability and capability to protect our country. If you can't be passionate about that, I don't know what you can be passionate about."
Kestrel Eye was one of the technologies Dickinson highlighted, sharing the importance of providing real-time satellite imagery of the battlefield to the warfighter, while boasting the satellite's size -- that of a dorm room refrigerator. He also discussed the Army's development of high energy lasers, which are being used to bridge the weapons gap between machine guns and missiles, providing a cost-effective way of defending against threats such as unmanned aerial systems.
"For the past 60 years our team has met the full range of security challenges faced by our great nation," Dickinson said. "Today, perhaps more than ever, complexity and adversarial competition pervades our mission area. Not only are the security challenges we face complex, so are the organizations that I lead. The common ideal uniting this multifaceted organization is a universal desire to excel by the service members, government civilians and contractors I have the privilege to lead. Our team's greatest aspiration is to safeguard the security of the nation and our allies in our fields of expertise."
In addition to a technical overview, Dickinson also shared advice from the wisdom he's gained over the course of his career. The lieutenant general encouraged the young professionals to strive for balance in their personal and professional lives, to take time to reflect, to read to gain a better understanding of the world, to get involved in their community, to become an expert in their field, to get out of their comfort zone, to become an effective communicator, and to value teamwork.
"The future is incredibly optimistic for the community of aeronautics and astronautics, young professional engineers such as yourselves," Dickinson said. "Many great advances in technology occur right here in the greater Huntsville/Madison County area. During this symposium I think the most important thing is that you take time to have a dialogue, share ideas and stay connected with colleagues and continue to network in order to further aeronautics and astronautics. By furthering your individual technical specialties, you have the potential to further space and missile defense, understanding and collaboration to enhance our capabilities to meet the expectations of our great nation.
"In a short time frame, it is because of people like you, and our forefathers, who got us to the moon in nine years. We need you. The nation needs you, and people like you, to reflect, read, volunteer, be an effective communicator, and a team player. It is through teamwork we will overcome challenges our global society faces while we inspire the next generation to follow in your footsteps. You have big shoes to fill. Let's make sure the next generation does, too."