By Cheryl RodewigOctober 3, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Oct. 3, 2012) -- Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command's Fleet Management Expansion Directorate dedicated two of its newest buildings Thursday during a ceremony on Harmony Church.
Buildings 5405 and 5415, which collectively make up the Maneuver Center of Excellence Combat Equipment Maintenance Complex, were named in honor of Joseph Williams and 1st Lt. G. Murl Conner, respectively. Together, the Joe Williams Maintenance Facility and Conner Hall service hundreds of tanks and Bradleys in a given year.
"We're here today to honor two very special people," said Dave Carter, deputy director for the Integrated Logistics Support Center, which oversees FMX. "We're honoring them because of their exceptional and extraordinary character and contributions to our Army and our country. Our hope is that in naming the Joe Williams Maintenance Facility and Conner Hall, we'll pay tribute to their dedication and inspire future generations of Soldiers and civilians … to do what Joe Williams and Lt. Conner did -- live beyond (yourself)."
Williams was born in Italy in 1918 and emigrated to America in 1924. He played a significant role in World War II by helping develop the M4 series of tanks and later the T-series tanks.
"Uncle Joe was a patriot," said Joseph DePond, Williams' nephew, who bears his namesake. "He loved this country with all his heart. Whenever we would speak about the United States, he would always talk to us about what a great country it was. We would listen in awe as he spoke about all the countries he visited … but none of them were held in the highest level of esteem as the United States was in his mind."
In the '60s and into the '70s, Williams was instrumental in the development of the M60A2 Tank and the M551. The mechanical engineer was awarded the Meritorious Civilian Service Award and, in 1979, was inducted into the Ordinance Hall of Fame.
"I don't think he ever doubted the fundamental principles of the country -- the freedoms we have," DePond said. "And he was very proud of the fact that he was part of the military that allowed people to enjoy those freedoms. He was an all American, and he gave America his all."
1st Lt. G. Murl Conner
A Kentucky native, Conner joined the Army in 1941 and served overseas with the 3rd Infantry Division during World War II. For his valor in combat, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart with silver oak leaf cluster, Silver Star with four oak leaf clusters and the Bronze Star. He was also recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor and received the French medal, the Croix de Guerre.
"It's a great honor," said his wife, Pauline Conner, of the building dedication. "He was … my hero. When he came back after his service, our county had a parade in his honor. I had never seen him before, but I had heard so much about him."
Conner said her husband was a very moral man, and the legacy she hopes he leaves behind is one of patriotism and respect for his nation.
The two buildings encompass nearly 140,000 square feet, said James Logan, FMX director.
"I am humbled," he said, "to have the honor to conduct operations in these facilities dedicated after these two great men. I've been in Army maintenance for 35 years and these are the best facilities I've ever been in."
Construction began on the buildings three years ago and was completed in 2010.
The Joe Williams Maintenance Facility handles heavy tracked vehicles weighing up to 70 tons while Conner Hall maintains light tracked vehicles of about 36 tons and below, said Tom Esposito, chief of FMX track division.
Memorial plaques, bearing the names of Williams and Conner, are posted at the entrance to the facilities.