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Ft. Belvoir Gains Four Star Command

Army Materiel Command Makes Plans to Relocate From Alexandria

Napoleon once proclaimed, "An army marches on its stomach." The U.S. Army Materiel Command has taken it a lot further than that.

Their motto is, "If a soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, or eats it, AMC provides it." And, they do it worldwide, 24/7.

Now the logistical nerve center of America's oldest branch of the armed forces is about to move its headquarters, under the command of four star General Paul Kern, from Alexandria to Fort Belvoir. It is one more example of the reverberations from September 11, 2001.

"The events of September 11, underscore our need for security and increased safety," said AMC chief of staff, Maj.General Richard A. Hack. "It also affords us a reduction in leased space and will make us more efficient."

Hack became AMC's chief of staff upon returning from Germany last summer. "When I got here, I was surprised at just how vulnerable we are. During my tour in Germany I couldn't travel any where unless I was in an armored car," he explained.

"There are 3,000 housing units across the road and a railroad siding with parking for tractor trailer trucks behind us. When I came here I immediately ordered concrete planters for the parking area out front to block vehicle access and changed the traffic pattern," Hack said.

AMC has been at 5001 Eisenhower Avenue for the past 30 years, according to Hack. "This building is really inadequate for us and we are the only four star command not housed on a military post," he said. "That's where we need to be."

Of the 1,100 personnel housed in Alexandria, less than 100 are military. The rest are civilians and contractors. "Although AMC has a global strength of approximately 50,000, only about 1,500 of that number are soldiers," Hack acknowledged.

It accomplishes its mission through eight major subordinate commands with units in 149 locations encompassing 40 states and 38 countries. "Name a country you can't spell and we're there. We are truly global and our impact is felt in all 50 states," he said.

THE COMMAND'S COMPLEX missions range from development of sophisticated weapons systems, to cutting edge research, to maintenance and distribution of spare parts and food supplies. AMC operates the Research, Development and Engineering Centers, Army Research Laboratory, depots, arsenals, ammunition plants, and other facilities.

AMC serves as the Department of Defense's executive agent in two critical arenas of the war on terrorism: nuclear, chemical, and biological defense and conventional ammunition.

To do this AMC handles diverse missions that reach beyond the Army. AMC acquires ammunition for all U.S.military services, manages the multi-million dollar business of selling Army equipment and services to other nations, negotiates and implements agreements for co-production of U.S. weapons systems by foreign nations, and supports many other government agencies.

It is anticipated that the first contingent, of approximately 20 personnel, will be moving into an existing building in the latter part of 2002 or early 2003. The entire move should be completed by the fall of 2003, according to Colonel Chris Young, officer in charge of the relocation.

"It will be done in six phases and cost $27 million. The whole reason is for force protection. We can't afford a hiccup because of our critical mission," Young confirmed.

IN ADDITION TO THE security concern was that of the affect of the move on their large contingent of civilian employees and their commute. "We wanted to know how a move to Ft. Belvoir would impact our employees since nearly three quarters of them are Fairfax County residents," Hack explained. "To most it will make very little difference."

An example of that assessment was Michele McCaskill, a member of AMC's public information office. "I just bought a home in the Springfield area and this will make my commute less than now," she noted.

"We got the okay from the Secretary of the Army on September 3, of this year. Although this is a temporary move, we don't know what the Army's long range plans may be or our final location. It might well be Ft. Belvoir," Young said.

To accommodate that temporary/permanent assessment, AMC's new facilities will be in what is known as "relocatables." These are manufactured, modular buildings that can be configured and built out in a myriad patterns and amenities.

"These are not trailers," Hack insisted. "They are concrete and steel with elevators and all the attributes of a constructed building, including plumbing and electrical. But they are also totally mobile, from location to location, and reusable."

AMC will also occupy an existing building at Ft. Belvoir. It once served as a barracks and is now being gutted and remodeled.

The new modular units will be two stories high with ground level parking.

"Each new structure will be a little over 100,000 square feet. The existing one is approximately 30,000 square feet," Young verified. "Our buildings will match the architectural styling of those now at Ft. Belvoir."

"There are several companies that produce these units. We plan to have the requests for proposal out by late October," Young assured.

"When these buildings are finished and landscaped you will never know they are manufactured modular units. And the beauty is that they can be reused in different configurations as things change," he emphasized.

"The only limitation to their reuse is the addition of highly specialized elements such as extra thick or lead walls for security purposes. The only portion of our needs for this type element is our Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility," Young said. "It handles our highly classified information."

AMC PLANS TO MAKE it's new headquarters a "showcase for building technology." There will also be an Operations Center auditorium for presentation.

"It won't be the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, but, it will be cutting edge," he claimed. "We are the Army's leaders in technology and research and we want to stay that way."

There have been a series of meetings with political leaders in the county and City of Alexandria to make the transition a smooth one, according to McCaskill. "They have all been very supportive. There is another meeting planned at the end of this month," she affirmed.

"I'm going in and doing a lot of earth work. We will meet all the environmental requirements," engineer Young assured. "There are a lot of considerations, both to our employees and the community at large. What is the impact on mass transit, commute time, and day care, to name just a few."

He confirmed that, "Overall ,DoD plans to move most military personnel out of leased space in the Greater Washington Area and onto military bases. This is the recommendation of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency ."

"Many different pieces of our command are already located at Belvoir," Hack noted. "One example is the Night Vision program."

The new location will be approximately 1,000 yards off Gunston Road, near the back of the golf course, according to Young. Among its functions everyday, AMC:

. Operates a world-class research laboratory.

. Provides training to help emergency responders in 125 U.S.cities prepare for acts of terrorism involving chemical and/or biological weapons.

. Provides science advisors to worldwide commanders in order to resolve technical problems.

As they state, "AMC is heavily involved in making the Army more responsive, deployable, agile, versatile, lethal, survivable, and sustainable. >From beans to bullets, helmets to helicopters, spare parts to spare ribs, AMC touches every soldier in the Army every day."

With all its technology, advanced logistics, and management expertise, the bottom line comes back to Napoleon, "An Army marches on its stomach." AMC recognizes that too, as in "beans" and "spare ribs."