By Kelley Lane-SivleyAugust 28, 2009
As U.S. Army Security Assistance Command makes the move to Redstone from Fort Belvoir, Va., one new addition is helping to smooth the way for others. Col. Tommy Lancaster became chief of staff for the organization June 22.
With the organization both moving and restructuring as part of its BRAC-mandated relocation, Lancaster finds his duties divided between the two main locations.
"Right now is very interesting because of our split operations," Lancaster said. "It's a challenge to work two headquarters at once."
The move is going well. Lancaster estimates USASAC is about 18 months ahead of schedule. They have 85 people in place at Redstone and are expecting about 60 more. While helping the organization's staff move forward, Lancaster is working on what will happen to those not coming with them.
"I've been working with personnel, trying to make sure that our people who are not coming down here find other positions," he said. "We want to do as much as we can for them. We also have people in St. Louis. We're working with Scott Air Force Base to get some folks hired in over there."
As chief of staff, he sees himself watching over the USASAC work force. By taking care of the individual, he is taking care of the whole.
"A lot of people have a hard time and aren't used to trying to find out about the individuals," he said. "When you get to know people and you treat them with dignity and respect, you'll be surprised how hard they'll work for you. They'll go that extra mile if you're sincere and you care about their welfare."
While other people are focused on performing their job and fulfilling their part of the mission, Lancaster said his job is to make sure those parts add up to the proper whole.
"I tell my people that I know everyone has their job and they're worried about the tree in front of them," he said. "While everyone is working on their tree, I'm watching the forest."
The military has been a way of life for Lancaster from the beginning. He was born in Okinawa, Japan, where his father was stationed with the Air Force. He calls Mississippi home, mainly because that was where his family lived the longest. He graduated high school there and went on to college in the state.
While attending the University of Southern Mississippi for political science, Lancaster joined the ROTC program. He quipped that he probably would have gone into the Air Force himself if he hadn't seen where that led his older sister.
"My sister was two years older than me. We were both in a (ROTC) program that let you choose Air Force or Army," he said. "Being two years ahead of me, my sister graduated and went into the Air Force. My father ended up following her to her next assignment. I saw that and said that wasn't going to happen to me. I opted for the Army so Dad wouldn't follow me, too."
His quiet rebellion led him on to a long Army career that has taken him all over the world. Along the way, he received a master's in general administration from Central Michigan University and a master's in strategic studies from the Army War College.
This position isn't his first at Redstone. In fact, it isn't even his first BRAC move.
"I was the XO (executive officer) for the 74th Maintenance Battalion about 17 years ago," he said. "The ironic thing is that when I came here with the 74th, I came down with BRAC also. They were at Fort Lewis, Wash. I was supposed to report there, but en route they flagged me down and told me I was headed to Alabama."
Most recently, however, Lancaster was station in Battle Creek, Mich. with the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service first as its chief of staff and then its deputy.
When he's not watching out for his work family, Lancaster is spending time with his wife and kids. His wife, Melanie, is an Arab, Ala., native. Lancaster said she's having a great time teaching him about the area.
"She's the main reason why I'm here today," he said. "She was really excited about moving back to this area. She's really excited to get involved in the community here."
A large portion of Lancaster's free time is also taken up by his youngest son, Tommy Jr., and sports.
"My 8-year-old plays soccer, hockey, basketball and football," he said. "I like to coach, but I try to be the assistant coach. My work keeps me busy and I don't want any kids waiting for a head coach who can't come."
Lancaster also has two older children. His oldest son is a doctor in Warren, Mich. His daughter just completed her master's from America University after undergraduate studies at Georgetown.