It’s week two of our eight-part series on Leadership Perspectives. Last week, I sat in the interviewee seat and shared my perspectives on leadership from the mayor’s chair. It went very well, mainly because Lee Marshall is a pro. Watching her flow in and out of questions while taking direction from the “voice-in-her-head earpiece” was a little intimidating. Why? Well, now the tables have turned and I’m doing the interviewing.
We’re starting at the top with General Dennis Via, the four-star leader of the Army Materiel Command (AMC). AMC was the prize of our area’s 2005 BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) win, an almost $50 billion (yes with a B) dollar business and General Via is nothing short of a rock star! Everything purchased in the Army is done by AMC.
As mayor, I had the privilege of representing Madison at countless Redstone events throughout my four years. I was there when AMC broke ground and later cut the ribbon on its new building. I was there when General Ann Dunwoody moved the flag from Ft. Belvoir to Redstone and later handed the reins of AMC to General Via. Each event was spectacular with the AMC band playing and numerous high-ranking Army officials in attendance.
Looking back, it was a separate event that opened my eyes to how special this four-star command is to Redstone and the Tennessee Valley. While at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) National Conference in Washington, DC, the last two years, I attended the Eisenhower lunch. The event starts with the introduction of the head table comprised of the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Army, and the 11 four-star Generals (of which, General Via is one). Visually seeing that brings it home that our AMC command is in elite company and its commander has escalated to the highest of high in the Army.
Two quick points while I am at it. First, our community “gets it” when it comes to preparing for each Base Realignment and Closure. Sitting in on some of the meetings, I realized that we didn’t just “luck into” big community wins in 1995 and 2005. Our business owners, Chambers, elected officials, and retired military officers work tirelessly to position our community for success. I have a picture in my office that contains a quote from Muhammed Ali which states, “The fight is won or lost long before I perform under the bright lights.” We are blessed to have strong leaders working hard to bring these commands and the jobs to our area.
Second, I now have a much better understanding of how difficult life is for military families. Spouses are asked to be super parents as families move from base to base and city to city. Stories of 10 moves, 11 moves, even 12 moves throughout a child’s schooling opened my eyes to the sacrifice our soldier families make. Yet, what you find is most of the families are strong units, accepting of the life and supportive of the mission.
As I close for this week… “Military Appreciation Week,” I truly have a much better perspective of AMC’s importance to our community. I realize we will be able to build off of this for years to come, bringing more jobs that support our war fighter. Hats off to General Via and his AMC team… Army Strong!
Here is the interview with General Dennis Via, posted in three segments. A portion of this airs Saturday, July 20 on WHNT News 19 at 5:00 p.m.