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March 09, 2012


Incoming, outgoing commanders meet with local news media

The incoming and outgoing garrison commanders of Fort McCoy met with the news media Feb. 28, prior to the Feb. 29 change of command.

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 were accomplished.
PHOTO: Incoming Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. Steven W. Nott

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.”

PHOTO: Outgoing Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. David E. Chesser.

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 those requirements.

“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 modernization.

“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” operates.

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.”

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