REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- For LTG Donnie Walker, an assignment to represent Redstone Arsenal as its senior commander means more than an opportunity to lead a cutting-edge installation that has far-reaching impacts in several federal sectors.
It also means a homecoming of sorts for a Soldier whose hometown roots are in south Alabama.
But while being close to home is one of the perks of the job, Walker said even if Redstone Arsenal was located on the other side of the world he would still consider it an honor to serve as its senior commander, supporting federal efforts in the four core competencies – logistics, space exploration and missile defense; research, testing and evaluation; and intelligence and homeland defense.
Just eight months into his assignment as Redstone’s senior commander, Walker said he is excited about the Arsenal’s potential for growth and the promising future ahead for its 78 federal agencies, and a workforce of approximately 44,000 Soldiers, civilians and contractors.
“It is an honor to be the senior commander of a Team Redstone workforce who are committed to making a difference in the security and defense of our nation,” Walker said. “From rocket scientists to budget analysts, to logisticians to firefighters, we all share the same goal.”
The missions and accomplishments of Redstone Arsenal along with its surrounding communities continue to make it an assignment of choice, he said.
“The current and future economic outlook for Huntsville, Madison and the Tennessee Valley, along with quality of life, affordable housing, and continued emphasis on higher education, especially at the post graduate level, make this community an especially attractive option not only for service members, but for other federal organizations looking to relocate, and for skilled professionals in search of challenging and rewarding career opportunities.”
Team Redstone encompasses those who work on the Arsenal and the elected officials, local and state government agencies, community and veteran organizations, and industry and businesses that support its missions and workforce.
“The patriotism of the community surrounding Redstone Arsenal is unparalleled,” Walker said. “The stalwart support of area residents and leaders – including our mayors and commissioners and other locally elected officials, our business and community leaders, and our state and federally elected officials – are all vital to the success of Team Redstone.”
Walker is optimistic about the opportunities facing the Arsenal as it begins to move past safety and security threats caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that greatly defined 2020.
“We are incredibly proud of our workforce. It has been anything but ‘business as usual’ as we adapted and worked our way through the challenges caused by COVID-19,” Walker said. “I want to thank our workforce for their ability to adjust new environments and requirements. Redstone Arsenal and our community partners in the Tennessee Valley are resilient, and because of our resiliency we are thriving. We remain and will continue to be relevant and pivotal to our nation’s security and defense.”
In 2021, Redstone tenants are positioned to continue to excel as a federal center of excellence.
“With our diverse portfolio of missions comes great responsibility. Our nation’s leaders look to us to solve complex issues, make groundbreaking discoveries, modernize and reform to meet emerging challenges and threats, and keep our nation safe,” Walker said.
As the region’s economic engine, Redstone Arsenal significantly impacts the Tennessee Valley, creating approximately 108,000 jobs in the area and adding over $18 billion to the local economy each year.
“The Arsenal and the Tennessee Valley continually make the ‘short list’ as a place where both private and public agencies seek to relocate,” Walker said. “Our workforce is projected to grow to nearly 50,000 by 2025. That growth is made possible through a shared vision among Redstone tenants; local, state and federal leaders; and the community as a whole, and continued support, investment and hard work.”
“It is an honor to be the senior commander of a Team Redstone workforce who are committed to making a difference in the security and defense of our nation. From rocket scientists to budget analysts, to logisticians to firefighters, we all share the same goal.” -- Lt. Gen. Donnie Walker, senior commander, Redstone Arsenal
Redstone leaders will grow the installation’s reputation as a premier place to work and live through four Lines of Effort that ensure the installation is prepared to meet the global missions required of tenant commands. Those LOEs are: 21st Century Workforce, Synergistic Growth, Quality of Life, and Security and Response.”
In developing a 21st Century Workforce, Redstone leaders are working with local school systems and supporting Impact Aid efforts to ensure the education enterprise – from Kindergarten through Adult and Higher Education – is prepared to provide and support the workforce needed both today and tomorrow. This includes a commitment by leaders to work with local community and state leaders to invest in continued access to quality education at all levels, including school of choice for military families residing on the installation.
“The success of Redstone is directly tied to the success of our local and regional education systems. To recruit and retain the best and brightest, our local schools must be competitive with the top in the nation,” Walker said. “To ensure our workforce remains ready, resilient and capable of executing their complex, vital missions, we rely on our partners in higher education for critical professional development and advanced education opportunities.”
To continue its Synergistic Growth, Walker said Redstone is committed to supporting the growing requirements of its tenants, optimizing available resources to reduce operational costs, and minimizing impact on the environment. Over the last 10 years, Redstone has invested nearly $185 million in infrastructure and more than $1.1 billion in facilities. In the next six years, Redstone has programmed an additional investment of more than $100 million in infrastructure and $675 million in facilities.
“Our ability to support current and future missions is contingent upon our support infrastructure,” Walker said. “Our growth must not out-pace our infrastructure. We must work with the community to create transportation networks that support future mission requirements.”
Toward that end, several ongoing road projects affecting access to Redstone’s Gate 9 and Gate 7 are set to be completed in 2021, including Phase I the Martin Road/Zierdt Road expansion; and the Research Park Boulevard widening/Old Madison Pike bridge widening project. In addition, Phase II of the Martin Road widening project is set to begin in late 2021 if funding is allocated; and discussion is underway for a new Interstate Interchange west of I-565 in Madison; and Resolute Way, which is a joint partnership with the City of Huntsville to connect I-565 with Redstone Gateway.
Redstone’s Quality of Life has benefitted from investments in both facilities and recreational offerings. Redstone MWR continues to provide a limited amount of services in a COVID environment and
Redstone Garrison is continuing to provide the Arsenal workforce with information through the Digital Garrison App.
Redstone Garrison continues to balance Security and Response requirements with ease of access, Walker said, with the addition of Radio Frequency Identification Access to provide authorized users rapid and continuous transition through Redstone Gates, and Recreational Access Badges to enable the public to access the Arsenal’s recreational activities.
As vast as Redstone Arsenal is, Walker said it cannot contain the far-reaching and long lasting impact of its tenant organizations as each strives toward mission success.
“No doubt Redstone Arsenal is a one-of-a-kind Army installation and Federal Center of Excellence, and that it will continue to be the economic engine of this region for years to come,” Walker said. “It has a critical role in our nation’s defense through its many and diverse agencies engaged in developing cutting edge technologies. However, it’s our people – who live, work, go to school and play in the surrounding communities – that make it truly exceptional.
“Our vision for Redstone is to set the conditions for sustainable mission and installation growth into the future by maximizing resources through partnerships; focusing on base support, quality of life for the workforce and retirees; and achieving energy security and energy independence."