REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Sept. 18, 2023) – It’s a unique assignment and as such needs a unique Soldier.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center recently welcomed Lt. Col. (promotable) Shannon Thompson into the formation as the Center’s next military deputy. He is one of only 19 Soldiers stationed at the Center, alongside 12,000 civil servants and contractors. Of the 19, only two – including Thompson – are not pilots. But for the acquisitions officer, DEVCOM AvMC was his first choice for his next assignment.
“This is the first time I've ever been on the science and technology side. This is like the Tony Stark world where the cool stuff happens - innovation happens,” Thompson said.
Thompson is used to forging his own path. He earned his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University, where he was named a distinguished military graduate and commissioned as an armor officer in 2002. Nashville is a long way from his home state of Alaska, but made sense to Thompson, whose parents were natives of the Volunteer State.
Although the son of an Air Force non-commissioned officer, Thompson said he never saw himself serving in the military while growing up.
“I’ve thought about this a lot with the current Army recruiting challenges,” he said. “Honestly, I think my dad being in the Air Force created a familiarity that made military service not seem so foreign. And then when I was in high school, when we were choosing electives, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. JROTC was on the list and I thought I'd give it a try. It turned out they did a lot of things that I thought was fun - they had sporting and athletic competitions that I enjoyed. Then it came time to go to college. I needed money and there was a scholarship. But even when I joined ROTC in college, and then the Army, I never intended to make it a career. It was always when the next decision came up, the right choice for me was to continue.”
With those opportunities came deployments. Thompson served with the 1st Squadron 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Carson, Colorado, and deployed twice with the Brave Rifles. He was next assigned to Fort Riley, Kansas, where he took command of Apache Troop and deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
AvMC is not his first time at Redstone Arsenal. Thompson was prior assigned to the Missile Defense Agency, and both he and his wife enjoyed their time at Redstone so much that they wanted to come back and put down roots with their three sons.
Part of the draw, Thompson said, is their love of the outdoors and what North Alabama offers in that respect. But also, it was the professional opportunity to use his experience to be a bridge to the acquisition community.
“It is important that our customers – the PEOs and other materiel developers - understand the capabilities that exist within the Center,” Thompson said. “And a greater appreciation of that can be gleaned from actually being inside the organization because it is so huge.
“From an inside perspective, you can understand the capabilities that exist within and utilize that. I want to learn as much as I can about AvMC so that when I leave AvMC, I will take that knowledge with me to help make Army Acquisition better.”
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.