REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama -- The Army's senior air defender is preparing to go from defending the high ground to defending the "final frontier" for the Department of Defense.

Lt. Gen. James H. Dickinson assumed command of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense in January 2017, and on Dec. 6, he will leave to assume the role as U.S. Space Command deputy commander.

Prior to his Change of Command, Dickinson talked about his time as USASMDC's leader and how the command has prepared him for his future role at USSPACECOM.

"My almost 36 months in command have been during one of the most dynamic times in our Army, the Department of Defense and for the nation," Dickinson said. "If you look at what has happened over the past three years from an operational readiness perspective I think the command has increased its overall readiness in support of then Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley's number one priority, which was readiness.

"My focus for the first year was to ensure the command was ready," he added. "This included making sure the 100th Missile Defense Brigade and the 1st Space Brigade were ready and able to do their missions in accordance with my priorities, the first of which is protecting the homeland."

Dickinson said he spent a lot of time at the beginning of his command getting to know and understand SMDC from both operational and institutional sides.

"I was very pleased with how far we came in the first year to ensure we were operationally ready to perform our missions," Dickinson said. "Institutionally, we have made great strides reorganizing within the command in support of the U.S. Space Command.

"I came here in the beginning with my background in missile defense and commanding a few of those units at various levels in the Army, and I came in here with a critical eye asking why we do certain things and why certain organizations are where they are in the command," he added. "Then I came back to ask where do they fit in with the rest of the Army and how does that help us move into the future."

Dickinson said SMDC headquarters is geographically split and it is responsible for the entire Army space enterprise within the command, both which make it a unique organization.

"We are responsible for not only the operational piece but also the institutional side," Dickinson said. "So having those two functions within the same command has really shown me during the past three years that we are very agile and we can go very quickly from doctrine; tactics, techniques and procedure development; to implementation of that in the operational force."

For example, Dickinson listed several areas he takes pride in including the successful launch of Flight Test Ground-Based Interceptor, or FTG-15 Ground-based interceptor launch; his role as Army Air and Missile Defense leader; the publication of the Army's AMD 2028; the command's role in Army hypersonics; launch of the Kestrel Eye small satellite; SMDC's directed energy accomplishments; Army Space Training Strategy; and the standup of the Army's first Satellite Operations Brigade.

In relation to those successes, the general said that the most valuable assets at SMDC are its Soldiers, civilians and family members, and that the mission accomplished by the SMDC team on a daily basis protects the joint warfighter and defends the homeland.

"This is a very diverse organization," Dickinson said. "It never ceases to amaze me that with all the civilians I meet every day, I still haven't met them all. I am always impressed with how talented they are and how passionate they are in the work they do, because they ultimately know that it supports the Soldiers who defend our nation.

"Our Soldiers never cease to impress me, whether they are space Soldiers, missile defense Soldiers or any Soldier in the Army," he added. "They all have incredible stories and they all do incredible things for our nation. I thank them very much for what they do each and every day. We have enjoyed meeting the Soldiers and civilians who make up this organization who are located around the world doing things at all times of day or night. They do a great job."

Dickinson said that the command's military and civilian family members are equally important to the command.

"Every civilian and Soldier who works for us, has to have a very strong family standing behind them," Dickinson said. "We have many of those families today."

Besides leading SMDC at Redstone Arsenal, Dickinson has served in numerous command and staff assignments, both overseas and in the continental United States. Places he has served include Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Germany, Korea, Alabama, Hawaii, Nebraska, Texas, the Pentagon and others.

Dickinson said he was honored to be named the USSPACECOM deputy and proud to represent the Army in this new role. He said he could not have had a better job to prepare him for his new role at USSPACECOM.

"In the past year-and-a-half we have been an integral part of all of the space planning efforts that happened at USSTRATCOM and at the Department of Defense," Dickinson said. "I couldn't have had a better opportunity to understand the new domain that we are protecting.

"This has been the most professionally rewarding job I have ever had," he added. "Only former commanding generals of this organization really understand what that means. This command does so many different things, in so many different areas, with so many different types of experts that it took me probably a year and a half to really get my arms around all of the different things we do. From the science and technology out of the Technical Center to all of the institutional functions out of the Space and Missile Defense Center of Excellence to the operations we do at the 1st Space Brigade and the new Satellite Operations Brigade. And then on top of that you add in the 100th Missile Defense Brigade with the 300 Soldiers protecting the 300 million Americans, we are probably the most unique Army Service Component Command the Army has."

Dickinson said it has been both rewarding and challenging to command SMDC's various mission support elements.

"I want to thank everybody who is in this command for what they do every day," Dickinson said. "They have made my wife, Angie, and I better people as we leave here because we have had the opportunity to meet so many of them and interact with them. We wish we could stay longer but the Army says it is time to move on. We are certainly excited about what will come in the future for this command. I know this command will become more and more significant to not only the Army but to the joint force as the years go by."