AMCOM celebrates 25th anniversary, historian reflects on how it began
A portion of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command workforce, located at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., participated in a group photo June 29, 2022, to mark the 25th anniversary of the command's creation in 1997. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Coburn) VIEW ORIGINAL

The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command workforce will mark the 25th anniversary of the command’s establishment with a weeklong celebration, July 18-22.

Some of the events planned for the quarter-century celebration include: 5K walk/run, organization day, former AMCOM senior leader panel discussion and burying of a time capsule in front of AMCOM headquarters on Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

AMCOM was officially activated July 17, 1997, with the merging of the Aviation and Troop Support Command and the Missile Command. The merger was part of the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure commission’s report and AMCOM’s historian, Dr. Kaylene Hughes said there was tension from both commands from the moment it was announced.

The recommendation was based on the Army’s need to consolidate missions, as well as Redstone Arsenal’s long history with propellants, which started when Wernher Von Braun, the leader of the German rocket team, came to Redstone Arsenal in 1950.

Hughes said, “Within two years of Von Braun’s arrival, Redstone Arsenal was recognized as one of the Army's most important technical centers. It was under the command of leaders such as Maj. Gen. Bruce Medaris and Maj. Gen. Holger Toftoy in the decade from 1950 to 1960 that the missile commands at Redstone Arsenal became responsible for the research and development, procurement and production, storage and maintenance of the entire Army family of missiles.”

Following the war in Vietnam, and again after Operation Desert Storm, Army leadership saw the benefit of combining missiles and helicopters, which is why the 1995 BRAC commission recommended combining ATCOM with MICOM.

“At that time, the BRACs were starting to move away from solely focusing on closing aging facilities and instead they started to move things together to create more dynamic efforts,” said Hughes, who has worked as a historian on Redstone Arsenal since 1987.

Looking at both ATCOM, which was headquartered in Saint Louis, Missouri, and MICOM, which was located on Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, it made economic sense to move ATCOM to Alabama rather than MICOM to Saint Louis, based on land usage and space.

In Saint Louis, space was an issue — everything was in rented buildings and there was no room for expansion. Redstone Arsenal had the space, but Hughes said it was not being used effectively.

“One of the problems was that [Redstone Arsenal] did not have much infrastructure,” she said. “They had not built plumbing or expanded the electrical systems over the years, because they didn’t have a real need for it until the 1990s.”

To prepare for the change, both commands hosted multiple town halls to address concerns from the two workforces. Teams from both Redstone Arsenal, as well as the city of Huntsville traveled to Saint Louis to help make the transition easier.

Some chose to retire, others chose to stay and find work with other federal agencies around Saint Louis and many chose reluctantly to make the move to Alabama.

In fact, Hughes said for the first three years, much of the original ATCOM workforce worked on Redstone Arsenal during the week and traveled back to Saint Louis on the weekend, often working alternate work schedules to enjoy greater time with family in Missouri.

Hughes said tensions remained high long after the activation of AMCOM, and there was still very much an “us versus them” mentality when it came to the aviation and missile communities on Redstone Arsenal. That changed on Sept. 11, 2001.

“When 9/11 occurred, [the command] was only 4 years old,” Hughes said. “We had a change of command on the 10th, and then the new commanding general went to his office on the 11th and the world changed.”

She said everyone was sent home for a week, and when the workforce returned they had a new sense of purpose.

“There had been an attack on the United States and that is when we stopped being aviation vs. missile, and we became the aviation and missile command.”

The merging of the Aviation and Troop Support Command and the Missile Command may have had a rocky start, but AMCOM proudly continues the tradition of excellence that was the cornerstone of its predecessor organizations. Currently, more than 11,000 Soldiers, civilians and contractors work for AMCOM at 59 locations within the U.S. and 25 locations overseas.