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A Letter from Dr. Jim Blake, PEO STRI

PEO STRI Dr. Blake Lifetime Achievement AwardAfter 38-plus years of combined military and civilian service, I recently announced my decision to retire from federal service, effective May 31, 2014, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share some parting words with the Team Orlando community, a group of colleagues who’ve been instrumental in the preparedness of our armed forces.

Joining the Army as a private in 1968 and ultimately rising to the rank of colonel, the Army’s afforded me tremendous opportunities to serve our great nation. Some of the most notable include performing aviation operations in Vietnam, becoming a dual-rated Master Army Aviator, and culminating my military career as the Army’s Senior Uniformed Scientist. From my days in uniform, I learned many vital life lessons, two of which I’d like to share with you. The first is that great tasks can only be accomplished by the work of a great team. The Army is not a “me” organization, it’s a “we” institution; and that’s what makes us a premier military force. The second lesson that sticks with me is that the only constant is change. Our leadership evolves, funding fluctuates and priorities wax and wane, but the one thing our nation can count on is a military that ranks second to none.

As my military career evolved into civil service, I was given the unparalleled opportunity to help ensure our Army remained the world’s leading ground force by providing U.S. Soldiers with the most relevant training and testing enablers. I performed this role as the leader of a great team of individuals who represent the U.S. Army’s Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI). Together, we are a team of 1,200 military, civilian and in-house support contractor personnel, responsible for annually executing a multibillion-dollar portfolio of programs, sustaining 335,000 training devices at 600 sites worldwide, and saving the Army an estimated $507 million for fiscal years 2008 through 2013. Our reach and impact transcended figures, however; we guaranteed that no Soldier went into combat untrained, and each day, the team remained laser focused on that mission.

Our PEO STRI family was successful in large part because of a bigger unit, called Team Orlando, which represents a formal partnership among the U.S. military branches and their academic and industry stakeholders within the Central Florida region. Sharing resources creates an efficient work environment, reduces redundancy, cuts costs and promotes a more robust training experience for the U.S. military and that of our partner nations. Today, I’m proud to report that Team Orlando, anchored by the Army and the Navy’s training and simulation agencies, represent a $4.8 billion industry. I’m even prouder to report that because of this alliance, our troops maintain their prominence as the world’s best trained fighting force.

There are many instances highlighting the goodness that derives from the co-location of PEO STRI with its military teammates, and the majority of its academic and industry partners. The Army’s collaboration with the Marine Corps in the area of live training systems is just one of many examples. From the partnership, the Marine Corps realized significant cost efficiencies in the development, testing, sustainability and maintenance of training devices. More importantly, they have been able to get their training systems into the hands of Marines more quickly.

The synergy of Team Orlando has also allowed PEO STRI to seamlessly partner with other federal entities, even those outside of the Department of Defense. PEO STRI works together with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide cutting-edge, simulation-based training for medical staff to enhance the quality of patient care at VA medical facilities across the nation. The partnership allowed PEO STRI’s medical simulation efforts—initially focused on training active duty Soldiers in combat casualty care—to support the full continuum of care in a service member’s lifespan.

Our nation’s increased reliance on training and testing enablers has increased our need for workspace. The Florida state legislature, recognizing the importance of the high-tech defense sector in the region, funded the building of three shared facilities, called Partnership I, II, and III, for the University of Central Florida (including UCF’s Institute for Simulation and Training) and components of the U.S. military. Realizing the continued role that modeling and simulation will play in the future success of the military, I look forward to admiring additional Partnership buildings from the comfort of retirement.

I assure you the Army has selected an outstanding individual to lead PEO STRI into the future, while taking our Team Orlando community and military simulation industry to new heights. Maj. Gen. Jon Maddux most recently served as the assistant military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology), in Washington, D.C. Previously, Maj. Gen. Maddux was the deputy commanding general, support, Combined Security Transition Command–Afghanistan. Additionally, he’s also served as PEO Ammunition, where he oversaw the development and procurement of conventional and leap-ahead munitions to increase combat power for U.S. troops.

Upon my retirement, you can trust that I will keep our military’s training and simulation efforts at the forefront of my thoughts, and without question, the U.S. Army Soldier will always have a special place in my heart. They say it takes a minute to find someone special, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them. To me, that someone is the Army and the folks at PEO STRI. Mission first, people always. Army strong!

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