AUSTIN, Texas – Nimbly transforming the Army to ensure future readiness requires broad innovation, dedicated leadership and consistent investment in optimizing the military’s strategic use of equipment, systems and personnel.
At Army Futures Command (AFC) headquarters, a small but mighty team of specialists and logisticians supports the command’s ability to carry out the intricate work of Army transformation by managing the facilities and laboratories where bold ideas are developed into new realities.
“I love the fact that we are enabling Army Futures Command to do their mission,” said Thomas Cowan, director of the AFC G-4/9 Directorate, which encompasses logistics and facilities.
Cowan and his 15-member team currently oversee and provide logistical and facility support to more than 19.5 million square feet of property, which is spread across AFC buildings that are dotted around the country.
While keeping abreast of the needs of so many different facilities – some of which are located away from a traditional Army installation – can be demanding, Cowan sees clearly how the infrastructure his team supports is essential to Army transformation aims.
The G-4/9 is “helping AFC itself modernize,” Cowan explained, adding that the directorate leverages the Army’s Facilities Investment Plan, the Congressionally created Laboratory Quality Enhancement Program and other logistical programs to accomplish its various activities, which include identifying, acquiring, leasing, assessing, maintaining, supplying and upgrading facilities.
Many of AFC’s more than 2,100 facilities exist to enable advanced technology research and development, meaning they must be modern and spacious enough to securely house specialized equipment and supplies. These include facilities that belong to AFC subordinate commands such as the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), the Futures and Concepts Center (FCC) and The Research and Analysis Center (TRAC).
If anyone could be described as well-equipped to tackle the challenge of ensuring continuity of logistics and facilities support across the command, it is Cowan.
Between his service as an active duty Soldier and his work as a Department of the Army Civilian, Cowan has devoted more than 40 years to the Army and the nation it defends.
His career, which has included leadership roles in Armor, Cavalry and Infantry divisions, as well as at multiple command headquarters, has taken him to locations that include Kansas, Texas, Virginia, Germany, Iraq and Korea.
During his time in uniform, he served a total of 43 months as a company commander; his time as Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander of the 2nd Armor Division (Forward) during Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s saw him deploy, oversee and safely bring home 800 Soldiers.
Now a member of the Department of the Army Civilian Corps, Cowan has served as director of plans, training, mobilization and security at U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leavenworth and deputy to the garrison commander at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where his Army career first began.
Cowan commissioned into the Army in 1983, upon graduating from West Point. He had sought to attend the academy in part because he was seeking creative ways to fund his college education but also because he knew he would have a guaranteed job upon graduation.
A teenaged Cowan was further inspired to serve by a line he heard in the Western film “Hondo,” spoken by actor John Wayne. The line described how Wayne’s character felt about the West Point graduates he had encountered in battle: “I never saw one of 'em I had to be ashamed of.”
At West Point and beyond, Cowan grew to better understand and appreciate the enduring importance of Army efforts, and he continues to be motivated by the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.
“Once I was in the Army, I fell in love with it,” he said.
Cowan continues to view the Army as a “great place to start, to learn the skills of discipline, and to be able to do something that’s bigger than just yourself.”
“There’s a great reward in that," he said.
In addition to gaining new life and career experiences, Cowan was able to achieve further educational goals, obtaining master’s degrees from the U.S. Army War College and the School of Advanced Military Studies.
Cowan, his wife and his six daughters also benefited from the support and sense of community and purpose that the Army provides.
“I’ve been very fortunate throughout my career. I always say God blessed me many times,” Cowan said.
It is a sense of purpose that continues to drive his work as a Department of the Army Civilian.
“There’s got to be somebody willing to stand in the breach to protect our country, and that’s worth doing,” Cowan said.