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AMCOM Mission Flows With War Tide

Sep 11, 2009

By Kari Hawkins

The mission in the nation's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has changed in recent months, and Redstone Arsenal's charge has shifted slightly because of it.

Speaking at a packed Town Hall meeting in Bob Jones Auditorium on Sept. 2, Maj. Gen. Jim Myles, commander of the Aviation and Missile Command, opened with comments on the nation's overseas contingency operations, namely the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In previous addresses, Myles told AMCOM's employees their work put them 35 miles outside Baghdad, in terms of the aviation and missile program support, technical expertise and maintenance capability they provided to the war fighter.

"Now, you are 35 miles outside Bagram, Afghanistan," he said. "In the month of August, we had four Soldiers killed in Iraq. That is an incredibly low number that we are talking about. The prism has turned around. The prism has changed."

But that doesn't mean the mission is complete. While AMCOM employees support efforts to drawdown troops in Iraq, support is ramping up for the war fighter in Afghanistan.

"Our Soldiers continue to need our help and our support," he said. "People in this world still don't like the fact that we congregate the way we do, that females can sit in the front row in this auditorium, that the color of your skin doesn't matter and that your religion doesn't matter. They want to stop our way of life by doing us harm.

"We are taking the war to them because we will not allow our individual rights and freedoms to be hijacked ... We will stop them, find them, hunt them down."

Myles spoke about the Soldiers - many of them just out of high school or in their early 20s -- who fight to defend and protect the U.S. on the front line.

In overseas contingency operations, "we are offering up something most precious to us -- our sons and daughters who have pledged to 'give my life if I have to,'" he said.

Myles said U.S. efforts in Iraq have affected a new generation of citizens who appreciate the freedoms and the quality of life they can now enjoy.

"The surge made it happen. They were able to see that we could offer them better things - a better quality of life - if they trusted us," he said. "And, when they realized that, they started pointing out the bad guys. In turn, they got electricity, they got the right to vote, they got a better way of life.

"Putting our Soldiers out in the environment was the way to go. What they (the Iraqis) saw is what we are and that's a good thing."

Afghanistan is a "helicopter war," and that means AMCOM employees will be working even harder to ensure the Army's helicopters stay in the air. Myles mentioned that MEDEVAC Black Hawks are crucial to the protection of forces when travel by road is difficult and injuries are sustained in remote areas.

"Keeping Soldiers alive is your deal. You are that important to our Soldiers," he told AMCOM employees as he mentioned Black Hawk capabilities, the new Avenger weapon system on the Kiowa Warrior and the run-and-shoot capability of the Apache. "It doesn't matter what it is, your support to the fight is incredible ... You may not realize how close you are to the fight, but you are."

He said convoys do not move in Afghanistan without air cover. The roads are so poor or non-existent, that convoys are extremely vulnerable to attack if they move without the air support provided by the Army's helicopter fleet.

"We're going into this area to make sure we provide the security necessary for the population to grow," Myles said of the Afghan mission, which includes defeating the terrorists, securing freedom of movement along roads, securing the borders, denying sanctuary for terrorists and completing the roads for commerce.

Though the country's terrain offers challenges not experienced in Iraq, Myles said Afghanistan is much like Iraq two to three years ago "prior to turning the corner with the surge. There is an increase in aviation hostile fire incidents and IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and coalition casualties. We must have a responsible drawdown in Iraq while ramping up in Afghanistan. This is about our will to prevent the Al-Qaida network from growing."

AMCOM employees working in support of the Army's helicopter fleet "help us fight the fight" by increasing capability, lightening the load, and increasing lethality and survivability.

During his comments, Myles reviewed the accomplishments of several individual employees, including Rick Turner's recognition as the Department of the Army Civilian of the Year by the Association of the U.S. Army, Dan Parker's recognition as Outstanding Army Materiel Command's Personnel of the Year, Sgt. 1st Class Lance Green's outstanding support as casualty assistance officer, Jim Snyder's and Patti Martin's Medaris Leadership Excellence awards, the Order of St. Michael awards received by several AMCOM LARs (Logistics Assistance Representatives), the Judge Advocate General's Excellence in Claims Award received by the Arsenal's JAG office and the Army Superior Unit Award received by the Integrated Materiel Management Center. He personally thanked LARs Gene Franco and Homero Reyes for their recent deployment to Pakistan in support of the war in Afghanistan.

"It's important to tell people (about these award recipients)," Myles said. "I know who you are and what you do and you are great Americans."

Myles also reviewed the Department of the Army contractor to civilian conversion required by Congress.

"We have about 8,000 contractors (at Redstone Arsenal) and 1,100 contractors have been identified, which is about 15 percent of the contractor work force who are going to be affected," he said. "The transition will occur in the next 12 to 36 months. It will be a gradual transition over time with transitions being made at the end of contracts."

Myles said "each case is a little bit different," but that the jobs will be competed and "we're going to make the right decision for the Army."

BRAC was also discussed during the Town Hall, with Myles calling it "the largest economic impact that's happened in the history of the state of Alabama."

Employment numbers on the Arsenal will grow from 30,000 pre-BRAC to 36,000 post-BRAC. Annual income and sales tax will go from $184 million pre-BRAC to $234 million post-BRAC. New jobs on the Arsenal will grow to 4,651 by 2011. The infrastructure investment on the Arsenal to support base realignment and closure is $1.06 billion.

"You are big players in the state and you should have some expectations," Myles said, mentioning the need for better roads leading in and out of the Arsenal, better schools for federally connected children, and better medical services for the work force.

He also talked about the Logistics Modernization Plan, the need to retain employees and to recruit new employees and transfers, the need to four-lane Martin Road west, the need for eating establishments and other services along Martin Road (10,000 cars go in and out of the Arsenal gates at lunch time) and Enhanced Use Lease near Gate 9. And, at the prompting of questions from the audience, he talked about the lack of separation incentives or voluntary early retirement plans offered at the Arsenal in FY 2010, daily working hours, Enhanced Use Lease plans and food services offered at the Sparkman Center.

Myles closed the meeting by talking about his recent trip with AMC commander Gen. Ann Dunwoody to Germany, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Italy and Iraq. In Iraq, he visited the 334th Expedition Hospital in Balad, where he talked to a nurse who told the story of a MEDEVAC doctor who had died the day before his visit.

"An RKG (a Russian-built anti-tank hand grenade) went into the Soldier's MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle from the top," Myles said. "There was a call made to his battalion for blood."

In response, Soldiers lined the hospital's hall and for eight hours Soldiers gave blood to help save the doctor.

"The Soldiers kept saying 'Specialist Parrish is our doc. Keep him alive.' They drew over 200 units of blood and the nurse said 'Sir, we put every drop of blood in him and operated on him for 15 hours, but we couldn't save him.' I put my arms around her and hugged her and cried," Myles recalled.

Spc. Charles "Dusty" Parrish happened to be from Jasper, Ala, and Myles made it a personal point to attend the Soldier's funeral.

"You must keep up your commitment," Myles told employees. "It's not about what you did yesterday or even this morning. It's about what you are going to do for our sons and daughters when you leave here. We still have work to do. We still have a fight to fight.

"We need your work 100 percent of the time. Our Soldiers deserve nothing less. It's about our Soldiers in the fight and for what they are sacrificing each day."

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