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Oct 28, 2009
By Kari Hawkins, USAG Redstone

Redstone Arsenal's "wow" factor was on display Friday for about 120 college juniors and seniors interested in engineering, management information systems, accounting, finance, procurement, operations management, supply chain and enterprise resource planning.

During College Day, the students toured the Prototype Integration Facility, Software Engineering Directorate, Redstone Test Center and the propulsion areas at Marshall Space Flight Center to get an idea of the projects they might work on as civilian employees for the Aviation and Missile Command or the other 50 federal agencies located on the Arsenal.

"There are a significant number of job opportunities here and there's a lot of opportunity in the midst of the organizations moving here," AMCOM deputy commander Ronnie Chronister told the students. "What all this means is there will be opportunities for you and your peers for employment here."

Speaking to the group at Heiser Hall at the beginning of their day-long visit, Chronister told the students that Redstone Arsenal can offer them a lot of hands-on opportunities to make a difference in the nation's overseas contingency operations and the day-to-day survival of Soldiers at war. The students saw some of the Arsenal's aircraft and missile systems perform in an AMCOM video, which included an Apache firing a Hellfire missile, a Black Hawk delivering a box of NLOS missiles to a remote location and a firing of a Patriot missile.

"All the science and technology, the engineering, that went into building the Apache helicopter or Hellfire missile ... all the science and technology for aviation and missile systems is managed at this Arsenal," Chronister said.

That management involves working with partner contractors to design and develop, procure, produce, field and sustain the Army's fleet of aviation and missile systems. Chronister is among several AMCOM managers who receive and respond to daily reports of aviation and missile activity in theater.

"We have about 700 helicopters in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said. "Right now, we have 17 down for 76 parts. I know every helicopter in Iraq and Afghanistan that is down. The Apache, Kiowa, Chinook, Black Hawk ... I know what's down, I know the parts it's waiting for and I know where those parts are in the transportation process. We are also responsible for making sure the Army's missiles are in a state of readiness."

He told the students about the performance of the Patriot missile - an AMCOM system -- during the early days of Operation Desert Storm and how it continues to protect U.S. allies in the Pacific Rim and the Middle East.

"It's there. It's operational and it's ready when it's needed," he said.

AMCOM and Redstone Arsenal needs to hire new college graduates with the skills to support overseas contingency operations. The Army is the only organization that will offer them competitive salaries and a job that directly affects the nation's defense interests, Chronister said.

"We have a civilian servant mentality here. My customer is the Soldier getting shot at," he said. "What I enjoy most about my job is supporting the Soldier.

"It amazes me when I get a thank you back from some young kid your age or maybe a little older thanking us for saving his friend by keeping their Apache flying. You will not have that dynamic going anywhere else that you may work."

Between 2009 and 2015, the Arsenal will add 8,500 civilian positions to its work force. Of those, 36 percent will be engineers and 10 percent will work in contracting, 19 percent in logistics and 21 percent in program management/resource management.

"It's unbelievable the technology and manpower we have here and, as such, engineers are typically in short supply," Chronister said.

He said the Army offers various hiring programs, including co-ops, internships, fellow programs, graduate programs and continuing education programs, to attract college graduates. Chronister told the students that their education is essential to the future contribution they will make in the work force. But he also stressed the importance of their people skills.

"Being an engineer is not just about what you know technically," he said. "It's also about building skills in working with different people. It's very important to be able to work in a team environment. If you can't do that, then you will not succeed anywhere.

"I had a mentor tell me that 'I'll take attitude and interest over skill and ability anytime.' Those are important words you need to remember."

Currently, 11,000 people work for AMCOM. Of those, 45 percent will be eligible for retirement in five years. Besides an aging work force, AMCOM also must compete for employees with organizations moving to Redstone Arsenal as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations. For those reasons, it's crucial that AMCOM and the other Arsenal tenant organizations and their contractors actively recruit new college graduates.

"It's important that you are here. It's important that you see what we do. It's important that you see the opportunities we have out here," Chronister said. "We are glad that you are here."