The Army was on stage Oct. 15 among local business leaders, and local and state political leaders to show its appreciation for the industry partners who have helped to make Cummings Research Park the second largest research and development park in the world.

"Cummings Research Park continues to be our support network on an international and global scale to grow our space, missile, aviation and defense programs," said Maj. Gen. Lynn Collyar, Redstone Arsenal's senior commander who spoke on behalf of Team Redstone at the research park's 50th anniversary celebration luncheon at the Jackson Conference Center.

"Our Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen deserve the best. And Cummings Research Park has striven to provide them with that decisive edge. The strength of our nation is our Army. The strength of our Army is our Soldiers. The strength of our Soldiers is our families. Cummings Research Park is part of that family. It's you that keeps us Army Strong."

On the occasion of the research park's 50th anniversary, Collyar also represented Team Redstone in accepting a proclamation honoring the anniversary. Besides Collyar, the Army was represented at the two events by Garrison commander Col. John Hamilton, AMCOM Command Sgt. Maj. Tod Glidewell, Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Kyle Crump and acting AMCOM deputy commander Bill Andrews.

Although established in 1962, Collyar told the luncheon crowd that the roots of Cummings Research Park go back to 1950. That's the year that Dr. Wernher von Braun and a rocket team made up of 130 German scientists, 501 Soldiers from the Army's 9330th Technical Service Unit, 180 General Electric employees, and 120 Army civilian employees came to Huntsville from Fort Bliss, Texas. The group at Fort Bliss had been working on the V-2 and various versions of the Hermes missile initiated under contract with GE. The Redstone missile evolved from the V-2 studies and Hermes research and development effort.

The decision to move to Redstone Arsenal was viewed by the Army as a way to save resources and become more efficient. The move allowed the Army to consolidate the management, and research and development of Army rockets and missile programs in one location that provided much-needed land for facilities and testing.

With the initial move of the Army's missile and rocket programs to Redstone in 1950, the area began attracting companies engaged in rocket development, and those companies needed office and research space. That industrial base continued to grow as the German/American rocket development Army missiles and the nation's interest in space exploration grew.

Initially, the German/American rocket team collaborated with the Navy on Project Orbiter, but interservice rivalries brought that to an end in July 1955 when President Eisenhower decided in favor of the Navy's Vanguard to launch a satellite. In September 1956, the Army achieved the first deep penetration of space by a man-made object with the Jupiter-C variant of the Redstone Rocket, which was set aside for Vanguard. In 1957, Vanguard failed in its mission and the Army at Redstone was tapped to develop a rocket to launch a satellite. In 84 days, the Redstone Rocket Juno variant powered the first Free World satellite into space. The Vanguard I satellite made it into space in March 1958 and is the only one of the first satellites still circling the planet today.

On July 1, 1960, the Army Ordnance Missile Command/Army Ballistic Missile Agency transferred all its space-related missions, 4,000 civilian employees and $100 million worth of buildings and equipment to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. In September 1960, President Dwight Eisenhower came to Redstone to dedicate Marshall's headquarters building.

The Arsenal and Marshall were visited in September 1962 by President John Kennedy, during the heat of the U.S. and Soviet Union space race. In 1961, the Soviet Union had flown the first human spaceflight and the first manned orbital flight; and Kennedy pledged to the nation that the U.S. would land a man on the moon and bring him home safely by the end of the 1960s.

So, in 1962, Kennedy's visit to Marshall served to seek assurances from Dr. Wernher von Braun, and his German/American rocket team that the Saturn rocket could be built to take man to the moon.

That year also brought the beginnings of a Huntsville research park.

"For the next 30-plus years, Redstone Arsenal continued to partner with Cummings Research Park to provide the world's premier space and missile programs," Collyar said.

In 1973, the research park was renamed Cummings Research Park, in recognition of local businessman Milton Cummings who helped establish the park. The research park continued to grow and in recent years, first with the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure commission recommendations and then with the 2005 BRAC, the growth has paralleled the growth of space and missile programs at Redstone.

"Every single day, there are helicopters, airplanes and unmanned air systems flying over Afghanistan in support of our troops. There are missiles being launched with pinpoint accuracy. Our systems have the highest op-tempo in history," Collyar said.

"These systems are developed, tested and sustained by teams at Redstone Arsenal and with our industry partners in Cummings Research Park."

The major general went on to say that Cummings Research Park has had a major role in advancing technology at Redstone Arsenal.

"Having a research park allows the government and industry to work hand-in-hand and side-by-side providing solutions for our great nation," he said. "America's Army is the most capable Army in the world. No matter the task, no matter the environment, no matter the difficulty, America's Army will always be there to accomplish the mission."

In an era of budget tightening, Collyar said the Army will continue as a force that has the capability and versatility to "shape the conflict" and win the nation's wars.

"America's Army is a globally recognized symbol of our national resolve and commitment," he said. "We are and will remain the best manned, best equipped, best trained, best led and most decisive land force in the world. … Our readiness is truly non-negotiable. Whatever its eventual size, the Army must remain highly trained, equipped and ready."

When von Braun and the German/American rocket team first came to Redstone Arsenal, they worked for the Army Ballistic Missile Agency. During those years and in the early years of NASA, von Braun "envisioned a research park where government, industry and academic could all collaborate together. I think von Braun said it best when he said 'I have learned to use the word 'impossible' with the greatest caution.' To take his advice, we can no longer look at what seems 'impossible' and be content. We must continue to press forward and imagine what the next 50 years can hold," Collyar said.

Referring to his own life as an Army officer who has lived all over the world, Collyar said "nowhere is as great as this community. We work together because we have common goals to support this great nation's defense and to extend our reach beyond the holds of this planet."

Describing Huntsville as "Rocket City, USA," Marshall director Patrick Scheuermann told the luncheon audience that Cummings Research Park "remains critical to what we do at Marshall Space Flight Center. … We couldn't accomplish our mission then or now without Cummings Research Park."