With less than 12 months before the Army Contracting Command officially raises the command colors at its new home at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Ala., ACC employees have begun their southern migration.

The first group of ACC employees to report to Redstone Arsenal found themselves in warehouse facilities provided by the RSA Garrison. With the recent arrival of temporary office buildings, ACC personnel are beginning to occupy semi-permanent facilities in their own compound area.

"The first staff trailer is now operational," said Gene Duncan, ACC, strategic initiatives director and the senior ACC forward staff member at Redstone Arsenal. "We've moved 12 folks from ACC's personnel, security, information technology and resource management staffs who were in Building 7437 (also known as the warehouse) into the trailer and all are now operational with phones and computers. The rest of the staff in Building 7437 will remain there until the other trailers come on line, but the new hires reporting in now will go directly into the trailers."

Duncan said as people leave Bldg. 7437, everyone gets a new 256-955-7XXX phone number. Video teleconferencing equipment has been installed. Transition team and staff meetings connecting back to the ACC headquarters at Fort Belvoir, Va., are being conducted from conference rooms in the staff trailer.

"From my perspective things have been going well," Duncan said. "We've been limited on space so we have been bringing folks on slowly. Now that the relocatables are becoming available we are expecting a much greater influx of folks. Right now we have less than 60 people here at RSA but we expect to be up to approximately 120 folks by the end of December."

With an influx of new people to the area comes the most frequently asked question.
Where is the best place to live'

"The short answer is that there is no single best place. It all depends on what you are looking for," said Duncan, who made the move to Alabama from the Washington, D.C., area in 2007. "There is a wide variety of housing options ranging from apartments, townhomes and condos, to restored 19th century houses in historic districts, to suburban living in subdivisions, to country estates and farms all within a 30-45 minute commute from Redstone. We also get lots of questions about schools. The transition team has done a good job of putting a lot of the information on the transition Web site."

The command is doing a better job of getting the word out on repeatable processes that are in place to help people acclimate themselves to the area and become productive as soon as possible, Duncan said. In order to get people up and running quickly there has to be a lot of communication about who will be arriving at RSA and when.

"We're still getting a lot of last minute changes in reporting dates and that is causing a lot of scrambling, especially for the G6 information technology team. They need to coordinate information management actions at Fort Belvoir and Redstone Arsenal to ensure network accounts, e-mail access and file backup don't cause delays," he said.

Arriving in Huntsville in August, Sandra March, director, Internal Review and Audit Compliance Office, Expeditionary Contracting Command, said the most pleasant surprise has been the quiet.

"It's a stark contrast from Northern Virginia and it certainly reduced my stress level. I know we sleep better feeling safer and more secure," March said. "I now recognize we were living at a high stress level there and didn't take the time to enjoy things around us. I was raised in a large metropolitan area in Texas, so I didn't mind the traffic, police sirens, airplanes, helicopters and neighbors. The absence of noise has been a very welcomed difference."

Another surprise for March is the new ACC and ECC employees arriving to Redstone Arsenal.
"New people are arriving here every day," said March. "They're coming from all over ... Germany, Rock Island, Virginia ... and from the local area. They have positive attitudes and appear ready to start a new chapter in their work and personal lives."

The command transition team has put together several packages of information for personnel to review prior to departing their home stations to help them be more prepared to settle in when they arrive in Alabama. A 'Know Before you Go' binder has been developed that captures basic information on the RSA area and explains the permanent change of station process and entitlements. The second package is a 'To Go' kit that covers more specifics on what a person needs to do when they out process, when they arrive at their new duty station, where to check-in, etc.

"The two biggest things that we've seen that people sometimes forget to bring with them are copies of their medical records and paper copies of their car titles, which are required to register their vehicles in Alabama," Duncan said.

"We'd like to get that type of information and general information packages on the area to people as soon as possible," Duncan said.