“To do the best I can to serve” is the pledge that coined James L. Flinn III’s career. And very soon friends, family and colleagues will gather in the Villar room of the Army Materiel Command headquarters to see Flinn inducted into the AMC Hall of Fame.
Flinn served as the deputy commander of the Aviation and Missile Command.
He also knows what happens when the Army’s missile systems are tested under fire.
In the midst of 1991’s Operation Desert Storm, Flinn witnessed the capabilities of Redstone Arsenal’s newest missile systems as they went to war for the first time. As director of the then Missile Command’s Logistics Center, he was well aware of what was at stake if those missile systems didn’t perform and missile readiness wasn’t sustained above 90 percent in theater.
Not only did they perform, those missile systems set the pace for a war that lasted only five weeks. They protected thousands of civilians and military personnel along with hundreds of cities and towns in Southwest Asia from certain destruction. And the missile system that had the most impact on the war was Patriot, a system Flinn was very familiar with from his prior assignment as assistant project manager for support in MICOM’s Patriot Project Office.
“My entire civilian career up to that point had given me different pieces of experience and expertise with Patriot and the logistics of war,” said the Tennessee native and University of Alabama alumnus who entered civilian service as an Army intern. “It started with working on the drawdown at the end of Vietnam and continuing in Germany, where I worked for five years in various logistics capacities.”
Then came numerous logistics assignments, including an assignment with AMC to develop a new concept in weapon systems deliveries that included the Patriot system, and his first assignment at MICOM with the Patriot Project Office at a time when the Army was setting up the first Patriot battalion in Germany.
“Operation Desert Storm was the first time we actually went to war with Patriot,” he said. “I had done everything associated with Patriot logistics up to that point. With Operation Desert Storm, it was time to make it all work and it did. It worked really, really well.”
Patriot’s success, Flinn said, was the result of the dedication of the MICOM team at Redstone Arsenal.
When thinking back over his 35-year career as an Army civilian, Flinn is not surprised that his employment experiences built upon themselves, providing him with success as a senior executive service member and then, in 2000, giving him the opportunity to be promoted to deputy commander of the newly formed Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal. Rather than chalking it up to coincidence, he quotes Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
As AMCOM’s deputy commander, Flinn said his pledge was to do the best he could to serve Soldiers, civil servants, Army leadership, the nation, his family and his faith.
“I wanted to be known for strong values and for my love for people,” he said. “I had three expectations of our employees. First, they had to be trustworthy. They had to be ethical, and they had to be selfless.”
Flinn found ways to reward civilian employees – especially women and minorities – by providing them with on-site college educational opportunities and work assignments that gave them visibility and opportunities for advancement.
“They were talented and driven and could take on tough logistics challenges, but they hadn’t completed their degrees,” Flinn said. “By providing college courses here at AMCOM, we made it possible for our employees to gain the credentials they needed to move on in their careers. That was good for them, and gave AMCOM a better prepared, better qualified employee.”
Flinn’s commitment to the Army, AMC and AMCOM did not go unnoticed. He received many accolades over the years, including the Department of the Army Senior Executive Service Meritorious Executive, Presidential Rank Award in 1993 and again in 1998. He was selected as one of AMC’s Ten Outstanding Personnel of the Year, and he was selected as MICOM’s Supervisor/Manager of the Year, both in 1991.
“When people ask me what it takes to be successful, I give them the same advice that my wife Nancy and I gave our children – go in early, don’t be a part of the coffee crowd, volunteer for the tough jobs, do what you can to make your boss successful, and don’t watch the clock,” said Flinn, who retired from AMCOM in July 2004 and now works as a consultant.