By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneDecember 10, 2010
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- A fifth floor conference room at the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command took on another dimension of importance Dec. 1 when it was named after a local military leader whose legacy is still very much a part of both the Arsenal and the Huntsville area community.
During a dedication ceremony that included several local community and military leaders, Lt. Gen. Kevin Campbell, commander of SMDC/ARSTRAT, named the conference room the Lt. Gen. Larry J. Dodgen Memorial Conference Room. Following remarks, Campbell was joined by Dodgen's wife, Leslie, for the unveiling of a plaque in Dodgen's honor.
"It's a wonderful tribute," Leslie Dodgen said, wiping away tears. "I know he would love it and I know he deserved it."
The plaque reads, in part, Dodgen's "focus was always on the war fighter. His 'Space to Mud' philosophy shaped USASMDC/ARSTRAT to be 'Relevant and Ready.'"
Dodgen served as commander of SMDC/ARSTRAT from 2003 until his retirement in 2006. During that time, the command activated the 49th Missile Defense Battalion, the 1st Space Brigade and the 100th Missile Defense Brigade. It redesignated the 53rd Signal Battalion, and developed and implemented new technologies and capabilities for the future fight, the plaque further reads. In addition, under Dodgen's command, the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense was established, which serves today as a component to the Strategic Command.
Campbell called Dodgen "a great Soldier, a great leader, a great husband, a great son, a great uncle and a great citizen ... a consummate leader who gave many years of dedicated and meaningful service."
Dodgen came to Redstone Arsenal just a few days before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. At the time, he was the commander of the Aviation and Missile Command, and senior commander of Redstone. In 2003, he accepted the assignment to lead SMDC/ARSTRAT. After retirement in 2006, he accepted a local position within senior leadership at Northrop Grumman. He died suddenly on Feb. 20, 2010.
Campbell said throughout his military career, Dodgen had tremendous vision for the Army and his command, a gift that served the Army well in the days following 9/11.
"While we were all still trying to look over the next hill, Larry had already painted a picture in his mind of what we should do," said Campbell, who served with Dodgen on several occasions during their careers. "He understood trends and patterns ... and he could map those into alternatives, show the gaps in equipment and training, and design a plan for the future."
For that reason, naming the SMDC/ARSTRAT main conference room - where decisions about the future are discussed and made on a routine basis -- after Dodgen is fitting, Campbell said.
The general said he hopes those sharing their "thoughts, ideas and concepts" in the Dodgen Memorial Conference Room will "live up to his standards. He was so filled with life and energy, you could feel his energy and pick up on his energy when you were in his space. He had a gleam in his eye and a plan to move forward even though the challenges may seem insurmountable. He lived every day with passion."
Campbell pointed out that Dodgen was the first general to command astronauts as part of SMDC/ARSTRATS's 1st Space Brigade and that he had the "right stuff" for command. Dodgen was also a Boston Red Sox fan from Louisiana, cheering on his team through many disappointments and finally celebrating their World Series win.
"He was an optimistic and energetic futurist," who loved his wife, family, Army and nation, Campbell said.
During his more than 30 years of service, Dodgen established a reputation for leading the Army's best units. He commanded a battalion in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm. He served as director of the Joint Theater Air and Missile Defense Organization before coming to Redstone.
Dodgen was a "shining example" of Army values and warrior ethos, and was committed to always doing what was right, Campbell said.
"The difference he made was for our Army and our command and the many lives he touched. My life is a bit better for having known Larry Dodgen," Campbell said.
The conference room dedication is symbolic of SMDC/ARSTRAT "picking up a fallen comrade and making him our wing man," he said.