By Ms. Deborah Erhart (SMDC/ARSTRAT)June 15, 2009
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. - A Battle of Normandy veteran and 11 Wounded Warriors from Alabama joined U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command Soldiers and civilians in honoring the Army's 234th birthday in a ceremony here on June 11.
Visiting the command to celebrate the occasion was Charles Robic, an infantry scout in World War II. He was involved in numerous battles during and following the D-Day invasion. He was wounded in August 1944 during fighting in the hedgerows of Normandy and awarded the Purple Heart.
"Because of our Soldiers' bravery and commitment, we can revel in our Army's standing as one of the most impressive, effective, values-based institutions in the world. Certainly today's Army stands unequalled on Earth," said Lt. Gen. Kevin T. Campbell, USASMDC/ARSTRAT commanding general.
In an early morning office call before the birthday event, Campbell met with the 11 Wounded Warriors and thanked them for their sacrifice.
"When I think of the young men and women who we send into battle today, and those who are sitting right here, who have suffered the wounds of war -- they get it. If you look in their eyes -- they get it. They understand what's at stake for this country," said Campbell.
"To all of you here today, thank you very much for what you have done, the country relies on so few of you to do what has to be done."
Campbell also recognized the Army Wounded Warrior advocates and case managers who were in attendance. "I want to thank you for taking care of our own. It means you work one-on-one, face-to-face, and I thank you for your commitment and effort."
This year's Army birthday coincides with the 2009 Year of the Noncommissioned Officer, and Campbell said this is a time to reflect on their role in the Army's long history. Campbell spoke about the leadership and success of the NCO Corps.
"If you look across all the other armies of the world, there is no other army like ours, and we can attribute that to the NCO Corps," he said.
Campbell then shared a story about a time years ago during his first interactions with the Russian military.
"We had NCOs conducting our briefings," he said. "The Russians really believed that the NCOs who were briefing were actually commissioned officers who we had put in uniform that day to wear the rank of a sergeant.
"The education and expertise level of those NCOs didn't really fit with what their description of an NCO was, but it certainly fit with our view," said Campbell.
"They are the backbone of our service and those of you who have served, particularly in combat, know the demands we have placed on our NCOs. They are a professional corps, a corps of competence and expertise."
In conjunction with the Army's birthday celebration, the command was presented with a historical study of ballistic missile defense by Dr. Jeffrey Clarke, director of the Center of Military History and chief of Military History in Washington, D.C.
"This two volume study, 'History of Strategic Air and Ballistic Missile Defense,' is divided up logically into a number of biteable, eatable, and readable historical periods spanning the years 1945 to 1972," said Clarke.
"I believe that it helps us to know where we come from and our perspective of the past as we try to figure out how to solve today's problems and where we are going in the future," he said.
This study is not one on technical engineering of different weapon systems and projects. It focuses on the enduring acquisition and interests of the missile defense community. It details the larger strategic context of these programs, how they passed through research and development, test and evaluation, and even later into formal acquisition processes.
The two-book study also delves into component integration, radar guidance and propulsion, government and commercial lab processes and project management. Additionally, it covers civil defense factors and the process in which they were presented to Congress and the American public.
Campbell received the books on behalf of the command and thanked visiting members involved with the development of these systems for attending. Wally Kirkpatrick and Robert Menotti, two members with ties to the the Nike-X and Safeguard programs, were on hand for the presentation.
"I went out of Texas A&M in 1960 into the missile defense field," said Menotti, who is now retired. "I've worked in different areas, but always in missile defense," he said. "It's nice to be back and revisit the history of the programs."
The Army's 234th birthday celebration ended with the cutting of the Army cake by Sgt. Maj. John C. Mattie, operations sergeant at USASMDC/ARSTRAT, and visiting Wounded Warrior, Sgt. Hubble Hainline, the junior NCO present.
Commenting on the birthday, Campbell said, "This day is also important for those who have never served in uniform because they are the beneficiaries of the freedom that Soldiers like these who are here today fought to maintain and they've paid a dear price.
"Whether you have fostered freedom and liberty through humanitarian help, through research and development, through training and equipping, or through battle, this holiday is in your honor."