You can remove the leader from his team, but you can never remove the team from his heart.
Thomas Webber, director of the Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center, retired after more than 30 years of combined federal service in a ceremony Thursday at SMDC headquarters.
General James Dickinson, commander of US Space Command and former commander of SMDC, hosted the event.
“I don’t really know what the best part of retirement is since I’ve never done it before,” Webber said. “I expect one of the best things to be spending more time with family. I hope to travel and spend time using our RV. I still have a lot to offer, so I will continue to support the space and missile defense community to some degree.
Webber mentioned some of his career highlights and highlights of his work at SMDC. Highlights include building the National Hover Test Facility from a former Saturn V engine test hangar and helping design and fly the first Kinetic Kill Vehicle to prove the concept of hitting a bullet with a ball; leading the Command Security Office at the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll, where he executed more than 30 tests critical to the nation’s strategic and missile defense capabilities, including several early tests; as Flight Test Director for the Missile Defense Agency’s Near Field Infrared Experiment; serve as Deputy Flight Test Director during the first-ever successful hypersonic test; and finally culminating with his role as Director of the Technical Center.
Looking back, Webber had some advice for someone starting their career as an Army civilian.
“Seize the opportunity,” he said. “There can be so many wonderful opportunities if you work hard and are willing to challenge yourself. Keep it in perspective that you have raised your right hand and taken an oath. It means a higher calling to serve our great nation and to ensure that we protect the freedoms that we have in this country.
“Don’t sweat the small stuff and you’ll be fine. There is an incredible reward at the end of a career in government with an incredible retirement program.
He then shared what he will miss most about SMDC and the Tech Center.
“People,” Webber said. “We have an amazing and important mission and I absolutely loved every minute of my job, but it’s thanks to the people. They made my job easier. The technical work done in the Tech Center is state of the art and offers capabilities that have never existed in our army. It’s really amazing when you think about it.
Speaking of his Tech Center family, Webber said words alone cannot express his appreciation, gratitude and respect for the men and women of Tech Center.
“They are an incredible group of professionals who are the best at what they do,” he said. “I am humbled and honored to have had the opportunity to lead this talented team. The Tech Center was the highlight of my career and I will miss the people.
“You can all be proud of the extraordinary accomplishments and the significance of what you have done. You are and always have been the Tech Center’s most valuable resource. I’m proud of what we’ve done together during my time and will be watching to see the even greater things you accomplish in the future.
He also spoke about his SMDC team members and thanked them for what they do every day for the military and the nation.
“Your professionalism sets the standard for everyone else to follow,” Webber said. “You have been kind, courteous and supportive to me and the Tech Center. For that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and continue to believe in your important mission.
“I could never have imagined a career that would have given me so many opportunities. I am truly grateful to all the men and women with whom I have served over the years. I can look back on my career with fond memories and the knowledge that I made a difference for our fighters and our nation.