Outgoing Redstone 4-star general discusses career, future - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Outgoing Redstone 4-star general discusses career, future

Gen. Dennis Via (Source: U.S. Army) Gen. Dennis Via (Source: U.S. Army)
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Golfing and fishing. Army Material Command’s Gen. Dennis Via says he can’t remember when he did either.

That will change soon as he returns to his native Virginia to begin what he calls "the transition."

READ MORE: Redstone AMC commander retiring from Army

Via is relinquishing command of AMC Friday morning at Redstone Arsenal. He is formally retiring from the U.S. Army on Oct. 6 in a historic ceremony at Ft. Myer in Arlington.

This special retirement review will include the Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, the “Old Guard." This is the oldest active infantry unit of the Army, serving since 1784.

“I’ve traveled probably very close to, in the time here, over 500,000 miles, visiting every organization and sub-element within the Army Materiel Command. I’ve been in and out of the theaters of war multiple, multiple times. I’ve visited our organic industrial base facilities. I’ve visited all of our installations. So that is an enormous time away. But it allowed me to see the organization, to meet the leadership, to understand the challenges and concerns that you don’t receive through a briefing," said Via.

At this point, after traveling more than a half-million miles, Via will go home. Coming full circle, after starting out in Martinsville, Virginia. His two boys are there and his mother is in her late 80s.

He said he was a 10th grader with no college aspirations when his brick masonry instructor took him aside, mentored him, encouraged him and started him on a 36-year journey that culminated in his earning a fourth star as general. Via said it was that teacher’s unselfish gesture that changed his life forever and actually, the course of history.

Via is one of only eight black four-star generals in Army history and only one of nearly a dozen four-star generals now.

He is also the first Signal Corps officer to achieve the four-star general rank.

When asked about his future, Via said his life was so profoundly changed as a teenager that he plans to pay it forward. Because he was influenced by that one high school teacher, his “transition” will be exploring ways he can make a difference to today’s youth. He said he doesn’t know what that’s going to look like now, but he said it’s a plan in development.

He certainly is the military acumen to change lives, as demonstrated in his resume.

Via took command of the global AMC four years ago in a community that had just been devastated by deadly tornadoes in April, 2011. He knew when he witnessed and was part of local recovery efforts that he and his wife, Linda, were in the “oasis of Alabama."

Via says leaving is bittersweet but he leaves AMC in good hands.

"While we'll have a change in leadership, the mission of the command will continue. I think and have full confidence, Gen. Perna will come in and build on the successes we've been able to achieve during my tenure."

Lt. Gen. Gustave Perna will be promoted to General in a ceremony prior to the change of command Friday. Perna will become the 19th commanding general of AMC.

Via reflected on being what he calls a servant leader. Moving forward, he says, that will remain constant.

“I hope my legacy will be that I’ve been able to serve as an example to others of what it requires to be a servant leader. That’s been what I’ve strived to do is be a servant leader, not a commander that other’s serve. Provide an environment where people feel appreciated for what they do. They feel trusted to accomplish the missions they’ve been given and know they are supported if the mission doesn’t go the way they think. I hope people will want to emulate my leadership style and be able to utilize that in support of the missions that they’re given," he said.

Part of the general’s legacy will be the AMC One Thousand Intern Initiative. This is an extension of his interest in growing youth into servant leaders.

"The program ignites a passion for serving in federal government. It offers one thousand internship possibilities to high school and college students in order to develop a passion for federal service," he said.

Via said he called 10th grade instructor when he earned his fourth star and planned to call him Tuesday afternoon to tell him about his retirement. He plans to go home and eventually become the same kind of influencer on youth that he was.

No doubt, wherever the general determines is the best place to spend his “transition," those youth have much to gain.

We will broadcast the change of command ceremony live on WAFF.com. It is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday and is expected to last about one and a half hours.

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