HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- With 80 years of support from the Tennessee Valley region, Redstone Arsenal’s senior mission commander emphasized at an Aug. 4 Armed Forces Celebration Luncheon the impact the installation-community relationship continues to have on the growth of mission sets, tenants and employment at what is now considered a federal center of excellence.
Army Materiel Command Deputy Commanding General and Redstone Senior Mission Commander Lt. Gen. Donnie Walker told a masked and socially distanced crowd of about 700 at the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber-hosted luncheon at the Von Braun Center that the appreciation the region has for Redstone Arsenal is reciprocated.
“While today’s luncheon is a demonstration of the Tennessee Valley’s appreciation for our Armed Forces, I’d like to ‘turn the tables’ a bit to recognize the vital role our community plays in Redstone Arsenal’s success,” Walker said. “This year’s theme is ‘Redstone Arsenal: 80 Years Supporting Our Nation.’ It could just as easily be – ‘The Tennessee Valley: 80 years of Supporting Redstone Arsenal.’”
The annual Armed Forces Celebration luncheon, canceled last year due to COVID-19, wrapped up a celebration that extended throughout the summer, with most of the events held in June. Those events included a Trash Pandas double-header baseball game with a patriotic program and Gold Star Reception on June 20; a Concert in the Park featuring the Maneuver Center of Excellence Band from Fort Benning, Georgia, with an audience reaching beyond 3,000 and fireworks on June 28 at Big Spring International Park; and a June 29 softball game at Toyota Field pitting the community leadership – the North Alabama Rockets – against Team Redstone.
“They played for the ‘Target-Destroyed Trophy’ – and Team Redstone captured it this year,” reported AFC Chairman Jim Myles before introducing Walker to the luncheon audience. “The Rockets say they’ll be back. It’s important that we not only work well together, but that we also play well together. Thanks to all of you here for your support of these important activities.”
Success on the playing field and within the community extends to the professional
accomplishments of Redstone employees that have led to 80 years of mission success for the
Army, NASA and other federal entities that reside on the installation, Walker said. He quoted great industrialist Andrew Carnegie – "Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision … It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."
“This is the essence of the partnership between Redstone Arsenal and the Tennessee Valley, and the reason we continue to enjoy such tremendous success,” Walker said.
In tribute to the historical theme of the luncheon, Walker highlighted the accomplishments of both military and civilian employees of Redstone Arsenal. He mentioned historical figures by name, calling them both Tennessee Valley citizens and American heroes. They included: Col. Rollo Ditto, the arsenal’s first commander; Maj. Gen. Holger Toftoy and the German Rocket Team; and veterans and scientists Dave Harper, William Lindberg and Col. Mike Dooley, who made contributions to Redstone’s military and space programs.
As impressive as the accomplishments of Redstone and its employees are, Walker said they could not have been possible without the support of the community, and “friends and neighbors – who built our homes; repaired our cars; taught our children; treated us when we were sick; prayed for us when the going was tough; and prepared our taxes when things started looking up. No matter what, you were always there. It’s you, our friends and neighbors here in the Tennessee Valley, who are responsible for our success.”
Walker also expressed gratitude for local government and business leaders, and local institutions like Huntsville Hospital that strive every day to improve the quality of life of the area.
“Huntsville, Madison and Madison County provide tremendous support - from your Herculean efforts to improve and expand our infrastructure, to augmenting the arsenal’s emergency services … to our Chamber and the incredible job you do with economic development and industrial recruiting, to the celebrations of Armed Forces and Veterans Weeks,” he said. “You make every member of the Armed Forces feel both appreciated and special. The list goes on and on. For all of this, we can never thank you enough.”
Walker reminded the audience that Redstone Arsenal began when World War II was looming and the Army needed an ammunition plant.
“The 16,000 citizens of Huntsville and Madison County said, ‘Let’s do this!’ This attitude remains unchanged 80 years later. In the ensuing decades, tens of thousands of people have made Huntsville and Madison County their home,” he said. “They pass through the arsenal’s gates each day to perform work vital to national defense, homeland security or space exploration, and return in the evening and on weekends to function as integral members of our community.”
Chamber Chairman Jeff Gronberg said it was an honor to be able to recognize historical military and space accomplishments during this year’s Armed Forces Celebration.
“I’m sure that no one could have imagined the significant role that Redstone would play in the defense of our nation 80 years ago,” Gronberg said. “The Huntsville/Madison community is proud to support the men and women of our Armed Forces – and to take the time to give this special recognition to them and their families during our Armed Forces Celebration … Today we celebrate the important relationship between the members of our Armed Forces and their families, and this community.”