The Warrior Next Door

Managing White Sands Missile Range, which spans five counties, has taught Brig. Gen. John Ferrari how to keep the peace.

As commander of the 3,200-square-mile White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico— the Defense Department’s largest installation—Army Brig. Gen. John Ferrari has two simple watchwords that help guide him: collaboration and cooperation. 

The range is larger than Delaware and sprawls across five New Mexico counties, which means Ferrari has to work at being a good neighbor. That can be a challenge when the mission includes testing systems that churn up dust, make loud noises and require roadblocks. 

White Sands needs the cooperation of its neighbors—including ranchers and mayors in the nearby cities of Alamogordo, Las Cruces and Socorro—to accomplish its missions, Ferrari says, adding that he has to keep them informed. 

“We need to be transparent. They need to know what we are doing and when we are going to do it,” he says. Ferrari personally hosts tours for these VIPs during major events, such as the Army Network Integration Evaluation exercise this spring, which required frequent road closures to accommodate troop maneuvers.

White Sands hosts a number of Army, Navy, Air Force, NASA and National Reconnaissance Office units, and Ferrari’s job is to ensure they have the supplies they need. The range operates on a reimbursable basis, so satisfied tenants are critical to boosting business and the bottom line, he says.

The 1,093 military personnel, 2,459 federal civilian employees and 4,058 contractors who work at White Sands are key to its operations, Ferrari says. His job, he adds, is “to unleash their creativity . . . and come up with collaborative solutions.”

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