FORT MEADE, Md. -- Retired Lt. Gen. Jack Woodmansee has lived most of his life looking ahead into the future.
He served over 30 years in the Army, researching new concepts and equipment for Soldiers, and almost another 20 years as a civilian eyeing future capabilities on the Army Science Board.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy recently awarded him the Braddock Award, which honors members of the board that is overseen by the deputy undersecretary's office. He received the award Sept. 17 during the board's annual awards banquet in Arlington, Virginia.
Woodmansee is the fourth recipient of the award, named after Dr. Joseph Braddock who served three decades on the board.
Now 85, Woodmansee, a former armor officer and aviator, credits Braddock and other past awardees for showing him the ropes throughout his Army career.
"I had a lot of mentoring from these guys that won the Braddock award ahead of me," he said, laughing. "I give them a lot of credit … of grabbing me by the neck and then saying, 'You know, you're good at some things but let me help you with this future business.'"
After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy, Woodmansee commissioned as an armor officer in 1956. He then qualified as an Army aviator and went on to climb the officer ranks before retiring as a three-star general in 1989.
During his career, he served two tours in the Vietnam War where he commanded helicopter gunships and air cavalry units. He flew over 1,500 combat hours, and earned a Silver Star while serving as a commander in the 1st Cavalry Division's 7th Cavalry Regiment.
His other military awards include two Army Distinguished Service medals, two Legion of Merit medals and five Distinguished Flying Cross medals, many of them from his time in Vietnam.
In the late 1970s, he oversaw efforts in combat developments at the Army Training and Doctrine Command. Under then-Gen. Donn Starry, the command carried out the "Division 86" study, which focused on heavy divisions as the critical fighting component, if needed, in central Europe.
"In the Army, we didn't have a plan of what the unit would look like," Woodmansee recalled during an interview Thursday.
The study researched how a division would incorporate new warfighting platforms, such as the M1 Abrams tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, Multiple Launch Rocket System, and AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
At the time, many leaders believed those capabilities should be at the corps level, not the division level. But it became clear, he said, after a series of war games.
"It took some negotiating, planning and war gaming for everybody to agree. We would have, by , all of those capabilities into our divisions," he said, adding the formations would later dominate during Desert Storm.
In the mid-1980s, he served as the deputy chief of staff of operations for force development, a position where he prioritized a $25 billion research, development and acquisition budget, according to his nomination letter.
His last assignment was the commander of V Corps in Germany, which had more than 62,000 Soldiers and an operational budget of over $1 billion.
'ALWAYS A SOLDIER'
After he put away his uniform, Woodmansee continued to assist the Army in getting future capabilities out to Soldiers.
He spent 19 years on the science board starting in the early 1990s. While in it, he participated in over 25 studies that directly influenced Army programs and strategy.
"When they invited me into the science board, I loved it," he said. "I had gotten comfortable of putting one leg in the present and one leg in the future, and trying to figure out how to get from the back leg to the front leg."
Perhaps the most important thing about the role, he said, was being able to persuade leadership that a new concept was the way forward.
"Because if you don't sell it, you never get it," he said.
While on the board, he helped research and get leadership support behind the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator, a flight demonstration program that aimed to advance blade concept and tiltrotor aircraft.
The Apache and Black Hawk helicopters, he explains, have the same rotor diameter and horsepower, a concept that could work with future helicopters.
The program later helped lay the foundation for the Army's Future Vertical Lift program, which is currently pursuing a Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft to replace Apaches and Black Hawks.
"What we suggested is that we have an aircraft at the agreed rotor diameter and horsepower and have those be the same for all the aircraft," he said. "But on one set of aircraft you make it an attack version and on the other you make it a cargo version."
In a congratulatory letter, the Army secretary thanked the retired general for his service to the science board that led to "meaningful recommendations" to address some of the most technologically complex problems for the Army and Defense Department.
"Your exceptional capacity to envision advanced warfighting concepts anchored by your distinguished combat and peace time military career make you an exceptional and deserving recipient of this award," McCarthy wrote.
While others his age are enjoying retirement, Woodmansee still works full-time on his two companies from Texas, along with his two sons who are also Army veterans.
One of which is a biotech company, he said, that produces powdered oxygen that can be given intravenously with a sterile fluid to serve as a blood substitute. He hopes it may one day extend the "golden hour" for Soldiers wounded in combat.
"Once a Solider, always a Soldier," he said of why he continues to develop ways to help future troops, but now with his sons. "You wonder what the next kids are going to have and how we are going to do that."