Larry James Dodgen
Lieutenant General, United States Army
remembered as visionary who focused on soldiers and their needs
By Kenneth Kesner
Courtesy of the Huntsville Times
February 21, 2010
Retired Lieutenant General Larry Dodgen, who was commander of Redstone Arsenal and the Army Space and Missile Defense Command before working in the defense industry, was remembered Saturday as a visionary leader who always kept the troops and their needs first in mind.
"He was a soldier's soldier," said retired Brigadier General Dan Montgomery. "He led from the front. He loved his soldiers and they loved him back."
Dodgen, 60, died Saturday from an apparent heart attack while playing tennis.
Montgomery met Dodgen in Korea in 1976, "and we've been friends ever since then, serving together off and on throughout our careers," he said.
Most recently, they worked together at Northrop Grumman, where Dodgen became corporate lead executive for Huntsville upon Montgomery's retirement from the company in October.
"We extend our deepest sympathies to Larry Dodgen's family and friends at his sudden passing. His leadership and outstanding service to our country and to our company will be greatly missed," said Larry Lanzillotta, vice president, customer relations, to whom Dodgen reported. "At Northrop Grumman, we were all looking forward to his new role in Huntsville, and his loss is a great shock."
Dodgen had been a vice president and lead executive for the Missile Defense Integration Group, which meant spending a lot of time traveling and in Washington, D. C.
In an interview with The Times about joining Northrop Grumman, Dodgen had said he was pleased his new role would allow more time at home.
"I'm just happy that a great deal of my focus will be on Huntsville and the community here," he said.
After his retirement from the Army in January 2007, "my wife (Leslie) and I made the decision to move to Huntsville and then we started looking for a job. ... My own personal goal, which is to play a more active, personal role in the community, is something that I hope to realize as part of this job."
"I think that part was just beginning," Montgomery said. "He was really looking forward to all the things that he could do."
"Now he was a citizen of the city and not just tied to the base," said former Huntsville Mayor Loretta Spencer.
The ceremony at which Dodgen became commander of the Aviation and Missile Command and Redstone Arsenal was held on Sept. 10, 2001. He had told Spencer and others, including arsenal public affairs officer Al Schwartz, that he wanted to take the time to really get to know the people here, and the workings of Redstone and the community.
"Of course that changed the next day," Schwartz said, with the terrorist attacks of 9/11. "His whole focus was on the safety and security of the families at the arsenal and the employees and all the soldiers there."
Dodgen was still getting to know the city in the days after 9/11, Spencer said, and they became close working together to meet the security and other needs of the arsenal and city.
"He cared about his soldiers," she said. "He wanted them equipped and was very pleased with the research and development done here."
Nile Gouker, now a systems engineer for Lockheed Martin, was Dodgen's executive officer in Germany and during combat in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm. Then he was Lieutenant Colonel Dodgen, commander of a Patriot missile battalion and later the leader of a Hawk-Patriot Task Force for 7th Corps.
"The welfare of the soldiers was always number one. He was always very proud of them," Gouker said.
When other officers or VIPs visited, Dodgen made sure soldiers were in the forefront and got the chance to meet them.
"I think one of his proudest accomplishments is that during Desert Storm he did not lose a single soldier during the entire war," Gouker said.
In 2003, Dodgen was promoted to Lieutenant General and became commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command headquartered at Redstone.
Lieutenant General Kevin Campbell assumed command of SMDC from Dodgen in December 2006.
"What I found in the command - and it was not a surprise to me - is that he had done an exceptionally good job aligning it, particularly to support the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," Campbell said Saturday.
He had known Dodgen since they were majors together in Fort Bliss, Texas, and later in Germany. Over the years, Campbell said he found Dodgen was a visionary.
"He had a knack for seeing what was coming next and what we needed in our force," Campbell said. "I was always very impressed with his ability to be looking ahead and planning not for tomorrow but for five or 10 years down the road."
Dodgen was one of the Army's "graybeards," a leader whose experience, skill and insight is sought and valuable long after their retirement, he said.
"I confided in Larry frequently about things that I was doing in the command and experiences he had," Campbell said. "I used him as a sounding board.
"We need these folks in industry as well as
in the Army. So it's a terrible loss."
A memorial service for retired Lieutenant General Larry Dodgen will be held Thursday in Bicenntennial Chapel on Redstone Arsenal. Burial will be March 11, 2010, at Arlington National Ceremony.
Visitation will be from 6-8 p.m. tonight at Laughlin Service Funeral Home, 2320 Bob Wallace Avenue.
Dodgen, who died Saturday at age 60, retired from the Army in 2007 after a more than 34-year career that included service as commander of Redstone Arsenal, the Aviation and Missile Command and the Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.
"He was a soldier's soldier," said retired Brigadier General Dan Montgomery, a longtime friend.
They worked together at Northrop Grumman, where Dodgen became corporate lead executive for Huntsville upon Montgomery's retirement from the company in October.
Lieutenant General Kevin Campbell, commander of SMDC/ARSTRAT, also knew Dodgen for decades and described him as a visionary leader. Campbell took command from Dodgen in December 2006.
"He had a knack for seeing what was coming next and what we needed in our force," Campbell said.
"We need these folks in industry as well as in the Army. So it's a terrible loss," he said.
Dodgen will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery following a funeral service in the Old Post Chapel at Fort Myer, Virginia, at 1 p.m. March 11, 2010.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the American Heart Association.
Posted: 24 February 2010 Updated: 12 June 2011