By Maj. Elizabeth BehringAugust 7, 2019
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. - An avid outdoorsman growing up near his native Atlanta, a young Allan Elliott was an easygoing teen, a self-described "hippie" who had a different point of view, in stark contrast to many of his peers.
But thinking outside the box ended up getting him very far, all the way to the rank of major general and as Army Materiel Command Headquarters' chief of staff.
"I was very 'easy come, easy go,' but I needed structure, so I enrolled in North Georgia College's military school," Elliott said. "I had the self-determination, and I liked doing it. But I had no designs that it was a higher calling. It was the late '70s, and it was kind of like being in the Boy Scouts, but unbelievably, we were going to get paid. I thought, 'I'll take it!' And I then went Airborne and to Ranger School because it was cool."
Elliott, who also is an Army Pathfinder, is set to retire March 28 after nearly 35 years of service, nearly three of those at AMC Headquarters. He is the first Reserve general officer to serve as AMC's chief of staff.
It was a position Elliott, who earned his active-duty Infantry commission in 1984 as distinguished military graduate, was hesitant to take at first, but in AMC Commanding General Gus Perna's words, was the right person for the right job at the right time.
"When I first met him while with the Army G-4, I recognized he was great with organizational management. But it was his diligence, persistence and care that gave me 100 percent confidence in him," Perna said at Elliott's March 28 retirement ceremony.
Elliott's chief of staff responsibilities included synchronization and integration of the AMC staff, reducing AMC Headquarters' reliance on contract employees, overseeing headquarters realignments under the Shape the Fight initiative and integration of two additional commands within the AMC enterprise, among others.
"Every day, I could count on the fact that he is going to represent me and the 190,000 employees of AMC with dignity and respect," Perna said. "Allan Elliott always thought beyond himself and the organization. His responsibility was to bring the team together to benefit the Army. He is a great Soldier and a great leader."
Elliott served several years on active duty, commanding mechanized and light infantry Soldiers. He transferred to the Army Reserve and, between assignments there, mobilized numerous times. From 1990 to 1991, he served in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, then in 2006, he deployed to Iraq, where he was the officer-in-charge and senior coalition advisor to the Iraqi Army Combat Arms School. In 2013, Elliott deployed to Afghanistan as the International Security Assistance Force chief of Combined Joint Logistics.
It was during a tour as Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, Mobilization and Training, that Elliott received a call from the General Officer Management Office that he had been selected for the chief of staff position at AMC.
"One of the most challenging aspects about serving at Army Materiel Command was just learning what AMC does, and why and how they do what they do," Elliott said. "I did not really know so much about the business part, as I had always been in [operations] and training at [Training and Doctrine Command and Forces Command]. I was an IMA - Individual Mobilization Augmentee - brought in the summers for 60 days during transitional periods to cover down. So when GOMO called, it was a surprise."
But like any true paratrooper, Elliott jumped in, feet first.
"The hardest thing really was learning the business, and I came into it sort of reluctantly, but it is an unbelievable honor," he said. "How many get to be the chief of a four-star command? But I do have to thank those who helped me stay on target and know the CG's intent, to help me keep my nose where it belongs."
Elliott also credits his wife, Sharon, who has been at his side since college, as the superglue keeping his personal life together. Together, the couple has four adult children.
"My greatest accomplishment in life is raising a family to adulthood, and ones who are productive to society, but really, Sharon gets the credit for that," Elliott said. "I taught them to appreciate good music and culture. Sharon is the best mother. She has an accounting background and ran our private office like it was nobody's business and paid everyone before she paid us. And she allowed me to do fun stuff in the Army Reserve."
Big plans for retirement include taking time to think about his next move, but not before having some fun. The Elliott family is spread across 26 states, so travel is the first thing on the agenda, Elliott said.
"There is a lot I want to do. Maybe six months or a year from now, I will go back to working full time or part time. It's important to stay relevant, to do something that is more than just our pleasure. But first, we want to see the people we love, and of course there are projects that need doing around the house, which we bought in 2006 and I have not lived full-time in for eight or nine years," said Elliott, whose career took him to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., and Redstone Arsenal, which he commuted to from suburban Atlanta nearly every weekend while chief of staff.
Some of that love has manifested into the trait of empathy, understanding and truly appreciating diversity, and he offered some advice.
"People are human- forgive others when they don't treat you the right way. We all have our good days and our not so good. Maybe they got some bad news and they are not equipped to handle it. Give people the benefit of the doubt and there will be much more peace. But also, be yourself, be who God made you, not something you're not. At the same time, know your strength and limitations. So many people are trying to be who someone else wants them to be. But everybody was not born to be the queen of England or George Clooney."