If you want to be close to the heartbeat of the Army, then attending the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army is the place to be.

Set for Oct. 4-7 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the nation's capitol, the 2009 AUSA Annual Meeting will provide its members with presentations by high-level Army officials, more than 500 Army and industry exhibits, and professional development forums for Soldiers, Army family members and industry executives. More than 30,000 attendees, including senior leaders from the Army, Department of Defense and Congress, will participate.

"The purpose of the annual meeting and associated exhibitions is to recognize the achievements of Soldiers and AUSA chapters during the previous year, provide a forum for discussion of pertinent issues impacting our Soldiers and the Army, and provide training for chapter leadership in organizing their individual chapter activities," said retired Col. Steve Taylor, president of the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of AUSA.

"This is an opportunity to come together to discuss AUSA and see what other chapters are doing, and to see what the Army is doing in terms of growing and changing. This annual meeting fulfills the AUSA objective to educate AUSA members and the public on the wonderful things the Army is doing today for our nation and its Soldiers."

Billed as the "largest landpower exposition and professional development forum in North America," the agenda for the four-day event includes presentations and panel discussions on military and national security subjects, exhibits of defense industry products and services, and meetings of professionals from the worldwide defense community.

"I've attended the annual meeting many times, both as a Soldier and as a civilian contractor," Taylor said. "I think the biggest impression the meeting has had on me was the overall size and diversity of the various exhibitors. It gets bigger every year.

"The annual meeting is a great opportunity for Soldier and DA civilians and contractors to learn about a variety of aspects involving our Army."

Featured speakers for the annual meeting include Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; Gen. George Casey Jr., Army's chief of staff; Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army's vice chief of staff; Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Central Command; Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the Training and Doctrine Command; Gen. Ann Dunwoody, commander of the Army Materiel Command; and Gen. William Ward, commander of the U.S. Africa Command.

Local AUSA members attending the annual meeting will be joined by a significant contingent of Redstone Arsenal Soldiers. Maj. Gen. Jim Myles, commander of Aviation and Missile Command and Redstone Arsenal and Command Sgt. Major Ricky Yates of AMCOM have committed to the event. In addition, the Arsenal's Soldier and NCO of the year and the three winners of the 1st Sgt. John Ordway Award will be in attendance. Several of the Arsenal's civilian leaders, including Ronnie Chronister, deputy to the AMCOM commander, will also attend.

"This meeting is generally well attended by high-ranking officials from Redstone Arsenal," Taylor said. "We certainly like to have representation from the Soldier population because that's what AUSA is all about - supporting the Soldier, and recognizing the Soldiers who have excelled over the year and who have achieved various awards. The majority of other attendees from Huntsville are defense contractors who are corporate members of AUSA."

One special event for the Redstone-Huntsville chapter during the meeting will be the recognition of Rick Turner, executive director of the Aviation and Missile Command's Test Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment Activity, as the AUSA DA Civilian of the Year at the DA Civilian Luncheon on Oct. 7. Turner won the honor at the local level in March and then won the honor at the district level this summer.

"It's a big kudo for Rick, but also for Team Redstone," Taylor said. "We were particularly pleased about that award."

Another highlight for the chapter's members will be the numerous streamers and ribbons recognizing excellence that will be presented to the chapter during the Chapter President's Dinner on Oct. 4.

The local chapter has blocked a group of 175 rooms at the Embassy Suites Hotel to accommodate its membership. In addition, the chapter sponsors a hospitality suite at the Embassy Suites where chapter members can meet casually. It is available throughout the annual meeting for business meetings, and officially opens every night at 7 for chapter members and their guests. On Tuesday night during the annual meeting, the hospitality suite will be open to celebrate homecoming for former Redstone commanders.

The local chapter along with Redstone Arsenal FMWR will host the "Alabama HOOAH Tent" on Oct. 4 in the "Hooah Tent Zone" during the Army Ten-Miler, a running event that traditionally begins the annual meeting. It attracts Army-sponsored runners from throughout the world, with more than 30,000 registrants expected.

"Our tent is set up in Hooah Tent City in the Pentagon parking lot at the start/finish line for the race," Taylor said. "We will be serving food and cheering on Redstone Arsenal's Ten-Miler Team. The Redstone team has placed high in the final standings in the past few years, and actually won first and third place in their categories in 2008. It's neat to be able to cheer on a winning team."

In addition, the local chapter is arranging several tours for Soldiers and chapter members on Oct. 5 during the annual meeting. The first is a tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing at noon followed by a tour of the capitol at 2:30 p.m. There will also be a "D.C. After Dark" tour at 7 p.m., which will allow participants to visit several monuments. The chapter has also requested a White House tour, but details have not yet been approved and finalized.

For more information on the AUSA annual meeting and to purchase event tickets, check out its website at www.ausa.org. Local AUSA activities in relation to the annual meeting can be found at www.ausaredstone.org.