The Rocket City once again became the launching pad for leaders in the space and missile defense universe.
With the theme of “Shaping Capabilities for a Dynamic Environment,” the 16th annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium was hosted at the Von Braun Center, Aug. 12-15. The conference was presented by the Air, Space and Missile Defense Association, the National Defense Industrial Association’s Tennessee Valley Chapter and the Air Defense Artillery Association.
“This year’s symposium will be a high-quality, interactive, professional development forum for dialogue between government, military and industry leaders in order to shape capabilities for a dynamic national and global environment,” said retired Maj. Gen. John W. Holly, SMD Symposium industry chairperson.
“Our war fighters have made an indelible mark in history with unparalleled performance,” he added. “This performance and commitment, coupled with a nationally supported industrial base, provide the necessary impetus to shape a dynamic future. We look forward to your attendance, engagement and vision as we endeavor to shape the future of our industry and our nation.”
On his first full day in command, Lt. Gen. David L. Mann, commanding general, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, gave a USASMDC/ARSTRAT and Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense update to those in attendance. He talked about what the command is doing, not only today, but what the command aims to do tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.
“I’ve been in command of SMCD/ARSTRAT for a little over a day now and I must say that I’m impressed,” Mann said. “We are definitely headed in the right direction. Our focus and lines of effort are good, and our personnel are dedicated to supporting the warfighter.
“I’ve also been impressed with the Huntsville community,” he added. “Huntsville has earned an Army-wide reputation for its close relationship with and support for Redstone Arsenal and the commands that serve there.”
Mann spoke of his past experiences and how it helped shape his career and him personally. He also discussed how technology is providing capabilities to our Soldiers.
“Along the way, I’ve come to understand and appreciate the contributions made by space and missile defense to both the war fighter and the nation,” Mann said. “The effect and impact that space has upon every aspect of our military operations and our day-to-day lives is amazing and ever expanding. Today there are about two satellite antennas per Soldier in current operations — these antennas provide: satellite communications; positioning, navigation and timing; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; missile warning; weather and environmental monitoring; as well as space control and space situational awareness.”
“The Army’s dependence on space as a force multiplier will continue to grow for Army of 2020 and beyond,” he added. “We, as an Army, depend on space capabilities in everything we do – pre-deployment, deployment and redeployment. Retaining our space superiority is a military imperative and there’s no going back.”
During the symposium’s “Salute to the Warfighter” dinner, Mann proposed a toast to the America’s space warriors who protect troops overseas in the field, and families at home in their beds.
“Throughout the world there are brave men and women who go into harm’s way,” Mann said. “It’s to these Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians that we’re committed to providing space and missile defense capabilities.”
During the week there were panel discussions with subject matter experts, social receptions and numerous other events to inform the public of the space and missile defense community’s current and future endeavors.
“This conference has shown in the past what North Alabama does for national security and national defense,” said Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks. “It shows how we are on the cutting edge of technology that enables our warfighters to achieve their mission goals with minimal loss of life. And quite frankly, what we have on display here at the Von Braun Center today is the envy of the rest of the world’s militaries.”
“This is an opportunity for SMDC and contractors to look at what each other have to offer, what their expectations are and to communicate,” he added. “In particular, you have the private sector, which is coming up with innovative ideas that are on display, and SMDC’s personnel can look at them and evaluate them and then they can have frank discussions with both sides participating and maybe put it in the queue for future development if it seems promising.”
At the symposium, one SMDC leader talked about the importance that the week means to the men and women in uniform who are in harm’s way.
“The symposium is going great,” said Command Sgt. Maj. James N. Ross, SMDC senior enlisted adviser. “This is not my first symposium, but it is my first in my capacity as the SMDC command sergeant major and I am looking forward to providing my perspective on the Army as a provider of space and missile defense capabilities.”
In the Von Braun Center, more than 200 companies, both large and small, had booths featuring everything from full-size displays to computer simulations of future technologies.
“This symposium is an opportunity for us to get the community together and to exchange ideas in an open environment,” said Larry Burger, SMDC Future Warfare Center director. “Everybody has good ideas, but it is being able to put that combination of two, three or four good ideas together that you wouldn’t have been able to if we did not have this symposium.”
“We learn something different every time we come here,” he added. “We learn new innovations that are being done by private industry, we learn some of the directions that the government is going and we learn from academic leadership. And it is that confluence of all three of those communities coming together in this forum that you can’t get anywhere else. That is why this symposium is very beneficial for the command and the entire community.”