REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Feb. 27, 2023) – In the summer of 2020, as his assignment as the chief of staff at the U.S. Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office was coming to an end, Col. Steven Ansley had hit 28 years of military service as an officer and a total of 30 years of active federal service.
There was only one assignment that could convince him not to retire from active duty and it was at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center.
“The only reason that I stayed in this long was to come do this job,” Ansley said, speaking to the breadth of innovation that happens at the Center and its pivotal place in research and development for the Army.
After nearly two years serving as military deputy for the Center, Ansley is retiring in a ceremony March 6. Although this is a big transition for Ansley, he is upbeat, even cheerful, about the future. The two-month trip to Asia that he and wife Lisa have planned might have something to do with that.
Ansley said that part of why he is taking his retirement in stride is that he believes his time at DEVCOM AvMC, RCCTO, and earlier in the Program Executive Office - Aviation has prepared him for his post-military life.
“I’ve had some very ‘Not Army’ Army jobs for a while,” he said, referring to his three assignments at Redstone Arsenal, an installation whose 45,000-plus workforce includes only around 1,000 Soldiers.
Looking back over more than three decades of service, Ansley reminisced fondly about a career spent traveling the world, but especially his assignment to the Kwajalein Atoll and of raising his daughters Nicole and Heather, young at the time, on the small, Pacific island. While he has loved his time at AvMC, it is hard to compete with paradise.
“It was just a tiny little place, there were about 2,000 people on the whole island,” he said. “You walked everywhere. No cars - you just rode your bicycle or walked. My kids could run anywhere and there were no cell phones. We had dial-up internet. We didn't watch TV, we went outside and hung out at the beach and learned how to scuba dive, sail, fish. So peaceful.”
Ansley said that serving as AvMC’s military deputy was everything that he thought it would be and although he will miss the role and the mission, it is the people that he will miss the most. The good news is that the Ansleys plan to settle permanently in the Huntsville area and put down roots. They have already begun doing some long-term projects around the house, a new experience in a lifetime of moving from duty station to duty station.
Although Ansley is retiring, military service will remain a way of life for the Ansley family, with Lisa also a veteran. Both Nicole and Heather, on four-year ROTC scholarships at Norwich University, are following in their parents’ footsteps, and Nicole’s husband, 2nd Lt. Brock Avise, recently completed the Armor Basic Officer Leader course at Fort Benning, Georgia.
One of Ansley’s last acts – and possibly his most poignant - as an active-duty officer, will be commissioning Nicole in April, upon her graduation. Heather will be just a year behind in graduating and commissioning in spring of 2024.
Looking back over a distinguished career, Ansley’s advice to the next generation of Army Soldiers takes on a deeper meaning, as his daughters prepare for their own military service.
“Give everything your 100%. If you do that, you will stand out and you will do well - and that's in any endeavor,” he shared. “Just do the best you can and take care of people because that's what you are there to do.
“These initial jobs are all about taking care of people who either just graduated from high school or maybe have a little bit of college but haven't really been out on the road very long. Make sure they understand how to do their job and take care of those Soldiers.”
The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.