The first phase of headquarters Army Materiel Command's five-phase Base Realignment and Closure execution plan is complete and the Advance Team members are on the ground.

The Phase I move has brought nine employees from HQAMC to Redstone Arsenal, to join two employees who were already on site. Each member represents a different staff section, creating a mini-HQAMC.

Advance team members are: Ronald Lewis, Nasu Bethea, Bo Bowers, Beth Clemons, Gene Duncan, Mike Edwards, Denise Hamner, Roy Owens, Penelope Pietrowski, Debra Shaefer, Bo Bowers and Steve Thornburg. Members represent the offices of Deputy Chief of Staff G-2, G-3/5, G-4/7/9, G-6, Safety, Public and Congressional Affairs and Command Contracting.

The majority of the HQAMC-Forward team currently reside in the building 5302 of the Sparkman Center, room 2134.

Each member volunteered to be part of the move and has different personal circumstances that led to their decision.

"My family is located in Huntsville so I was excited at the opportunity to permanently relocate to the area," said Lewis, deputy G-3/5 for Enterprise Integration.

Lewis, and his wife, Cindy, who works in the Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command Acquisition Center, reside in Harvest.

Owens, a government contractor from Alion Science and Technology, says returning to Huntsville was a good move for him and his wife.

"This is a return to the Redstone area for me. I was stationed here from 1992 to 1995 in Program Executive Office Tactical Missiles and wasn't ready to leave when the Army gave me a new assignment. After too many years this opportunity presented itself and I took it," said Owens.

Owens purchased a home in Priceville. "My wife and I love it here and the only thing we miss about northern Virginia is Wegmans, the super market of super markets. But that's the only thing."

"I volunteered because my family is down in this area. I have a grown daughter that lives in Athens, Alabama and my son and his three children live in Athens, Georgia," said Schaeffer.

Schaefer, Lewis' administrative assistant, currently rents in Madison, but plans to buy when she finds the right house. She made her move with her recently adopted 13-year-old daughter who Schaefer says has adapted well to her new environment.

As each person transitioned to their new duty station, they speak of the warm welcome they received from Redstone Arsenal employees and the community at large.

"[My reception has been] wonderful, my neighbors are wonderful. I've been treated very nicely by the folks at the city council - I even got my picture in the paper," said Thornburg.

Thornburg, BRAC systems engineer, is originally from Alexander City, Ala. He and his wife relocated to the Arab area. Their decision to move was based on getting closer to their grown children and grandson, who live in southern Alabama.

"Through my years in the community I have found the town and people to be welcoming and look forward to spending many years in the Tennessee Valley area. One will not find more accommodating people than those of the Tennessee Valley region," said Lewis.

"I have found everybody here to be very friendly, very open. All you have to do is mention the word BRAC to people and they all nod their head. They all know what's going on...everybody seems to do their best to welcome people," said Duncan.

Duncan, Integrated Procurement Systems Office chief, made the move to Alabama with his wife and adult son. They purchased a home in Hampton Cove, but plan to build on their land in the New Market area.

Members of the Advance Team each expressed satisfaction with the entertainment and retail choices in the area, the cost of living and the helpful nature of those in the community.

"There's so many new things to do here. This area is very community-based; the people that live in the community support each other. It's nice," said Edwards.

Edwards, Transformation Team program manager, moved to New Market in September with his then-pregnant wife and three children. They welcomed their fourth child, a boy, at Huntsville Hospital in November.

"If you're looking to raise your quality of life, this is the place. It's not typical Alabama. It's no different than Woodbridge (Va.). You've got everything you need here," said Edwards.

"Huntsville is not what people think, it's a lot more cosmopolitan. There are plenty of things to do. There's the same movies, the same malls, the same restaurants - they just have sweet tea on the menu down here," says Schaefer.

The change that seems to have affected each individual the most is the traffic - or the lack thereof.

"The biggest difference for me is just the traffic. Unlike Northern Virginia you don't have to plan your day around rush hour. There's some traffic; there's road construction but everything moves. There's not the volume of traffic on the roads. It's a much more pleasant experience, even just going out for dinner," said Duncan.

"Traffic - I don't have to fight the traffic to get to or from work. Getting to and from anywhere is easy. It doesn't take me an hour to go to the mall. That's the biggest thing [for me]. My stress levels have gone down...80 percent," said Thornburg.

The Advance Team will relocate to transitional facilities on the southeast side of the arsenal early next year. Phase II of the HQAMC BRAC move is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2008 and will bring more than 100 additional personnel.

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