|The incoming and outgoing garrison commanders of Fort
McCoy met with the news media Feb. 28, prior to the Feb. 29 change of
Outgoing Garrison Commander Col. David E. Chesser said he had two goals
when he became commander in April 2008: to improve the quality of life
and to improve the installation’s training ranges and facilities. Both
Incoming Garrison Commander Col. Steven W. Nott said his goals
include maintaining a wide customer base, while sustaining the
modernization at Fort McCoy.
When asked about the most-significant accomplishment under his command
and tenure, Chesser said “the modernization of Fort McCoy.”
Nearly $200 million was spent over the past few years on building
renovation and new construction within the cantonment area, which helped
improve the quality of life for the Soldiers training here, the work
force, the Families residing here and the retirees using Fort McCoy
services, Chesser said. At the same time, $81 million was spent on range
and training areas that support the Soldiers who come here to train.
These efforts have helped make Fort McCoy one of the reserve-component’s
premier training centers and an installation of choice.
“The follow-up question to that is ‘What do I consider to be the
greatest contribution of Fort McCoy to the Department of Defense and the
Department of the Army?’ That would be the mobilization and
demobilization of just over 70,000 servicemembers over a four-year
period,” he said. “It is more than 50 percent of the total volume we did
in the about nine-and-one-half years we served as one of the Army’s
primary power-projection platforms. In that time frame, we were one of
the two busiest power-projection platforms of the 10 that were active.”
Chesser said the challenge will be to replace this training load to
help keep the installation over the 100,000-troops-trained annually
level. Ideally, the installation could support the training of 120,000
to 140,000 personnel and more each year, if requested, he said.
The installation is well-positioned to support training of all
servicemembers and units, as it can support any Army training except the
firing of the Hellfire Missile, he said. Many active-duty units don’t
know about Fort McCoy’s training capabilities.
“As (active-duty units) come back out of theater, and they get crowded
back onto their installations — Forts Bragg, Drum, Bliss, Hood — there
are going to be too many units competing for limited training space —
ranges and training areas,” he said. “We have tremendous capability
here. We’re not maximized. So we’re going to go out and recruit
active-duty units a little bit harder.”
Nott, a Wisconsin native, said he sought the garrison commander’s
position at Fort McCoy for the opportunity to affect and impact the
training and lives of a large number of Soldiers. Nott said he developed
experience by serving as a garrison commander at a smaller installation,
Fort Devens, Mass., from 2007-2009. The small-town atmosphere
surrounding Fort McCoy is a perfect fit for his Family, he added.
Among his challenges at Fort McCoy will be to maintain the customer
base, Nott said. The servicemembers returning from overseas will need to
resume their normal training cycles, and Fort McCoy can help fulfill
“The second piece is to sustain the tremendous improvements made under
Colonel Chesser’s leadership here,” Nott said. “He’s really brought
tremendous resources onto this post with modernization. The training
opportunities units have here on Fort McCoy are quite exceptional.”
In addition, Fort McCoy must continue to modernize its training and
technology capabilities, and Nott said to stay relevant the installation
constantly will have to improve.
He said he will be busy learning about Fort McCoy and will depend on a
work force that is regarded as subject-matter experts.
Chesser said McCoy will need to sustain operations in the present
budgetary climate where more limited budgets will slow down the rate of
“The good news is we got it done just in time,” Chesser said. “We
renovated facilities. We built our ranges. We have what we need now to
support the 100,000-140,000 transient training load coming through here
and we have a very high quality of life. So we’re in good shape here.
That should help us as we go into (an era of constrained resources).”
Nott said he had trained at Fort McCoy as an ROTC cadet when he attended
the University of Wisconsin-Plattville. He also trained at Fort McCoy as
a member of the National Guard in Madison and then transferred to 1st,
133rd Infantry, a National Guard unit from Dubuque, Iowa.
“I still remember — talking about the modernization that has occurred —
drawing a billet with the other cadets where we still had to feed coal
to the furnaces and maintain a fire watch,” Nott said. “Of course
there’s nothing left like that now at Fort McCoy. That is a unique
memory I have.”
Nott also has worked with the First Army and has experience with unit
mobilization, including assets at Fort McCoy. Leadership roles with the
10th Mountain Division and in Germany, along with his service at Fort
Devens and at the Pentagon, helped him prepare for his current role.
His most-recent assignment at the Pentagon included working with
manpower, which provided the opportunity to view how the “big Army”
His collective experience will help him to contribute to Fort McCoy’s
great legacy, he said.
Chesser said the advice he would give Nott about his new position is to
rely on his staff and the work force when he’s not sure how to proceed.
They have a high level of experience. The installation’s Strategic
Business Plan will help him achieve success in the outlying years.
Nott added the staff has a reputation of excellence throughout the Army,
and everyone knows the installation is on the “A Team.”
Nott said he felt he had inherited a silver platter and a staff that
will help him succeed as long as he is “willing to listen and to learn.”
The testament to that is the installation has received six recognitions
in the Army Communities of Excellence competition.
The Installation Management Command (IMCOM), to which Fort McCoy is
aligned, has 147 Army installations, which means when Fort McCoy is
honored, it is in the top eight of the IMCOM installations, he said.
Chesser said being the garrison commander at Fort McCoy is much like
being a small-town city administrator. Fort McCoy actually is larger in
population than Tomah or Sparta during June, July and August.
Being the commander and having a profound impact on people’s lives is
one of the things he will miss about being at Fort McCoy, Chesser said.
This not only included Fort McCoy, but the surrounding area, as Fort
McCoy is the largest employer in Monroe County and an economic engine
for the area.
His future plans include pursuing a civil service job as he wants to
continue serving military personnel, but in a civilian capacity.
Nott said he looks forward to reaping the benefits of the Army Community
Covenant, which is in place between Fort McCoy and the surrounding
communities. The same legacy of excellence at Fort McCoy applies to
support in the local communities, too. The whole area is important to
the installation, and the installation is important to the region for
its economic impact.
“I, personally, am excited to get to meet my new neighbors,” Nott said.
“We will be engaged. My whole Family is looking forward to meeting our
new neighbors outside the fence, too.”