|The two civilian employees at Fort McCoy, who,
according to personnel records, are the current longest-serving federal
civilian employees in the garrison with a combined 85-plus years of
federal civilian service, are retiring.
Rita Byers, a paralegal specialist with the Installation Legal Office (ILO),
and Audrey Steen, a financial technician with the Resource Management
Office (RMO), will wrap up their careers within three days of each
Byers, who began her career at Fort McCoy Feb. 9, 1976, first went to
work for the FBI at Washington, D.C., May 31, 1966. She is retiring May
31, with 36 years of federal civilian service at Fort McCoy included in
her 44 years, 24 days of federal civilian service. She currently is the
longest-serving federal civilian employee in the Fort McCoy garrison in
terms of seniority (total years of federal civilian service, not
including military or other creditable service).
Steen plans to retire June 2. She began her career as a card-punch
operator at the Finance and Accounting Office June 29, 1970. Her 41
years, 11 months of federal civilian service at Fort McCoy makes her the
currently longest-serving civilian employee (not including military or
other creditable service) in the garrison in terms of federal civilian
service served solely at the garrison.
Byers has had a variety of career experience with different
organizations and installations. Between 1966 and 1976, she worked at
the FBI in Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, at the U.S. Embassy in Bern,
Switzerland, and for the Provost Marshal’s Office and then for the Naval
Investigative Service, both at Camp Pendleton, Calif. At Fort McCoy, she
began working for the organization that is the predecessor of the
Network Enterprise Center in 1976 before making a lateral transfer to
the ILO in 1986.
Steen has served her entire federal civilian career at the RMO. She has
served as an accounting technician, a budget assistant, and a card-punch
operator, in addition to being a financial technician.
Byers filled out an application to be considered by the FBI as a high
school senior. Steen took the civil service test after graduating from
Western Wisconsin Technical College before being hired at RMO.
Both said they enjoyed their jobs at Fort McCoy and the people they
worked with and the clients they served.
Byers said her most-memorable accomplishment at Fort McCoy was her role
in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. “I like being
able to help Soldiers e-file their tax returns and get their money back
so they don’t have to worry about the process,” Byers said. “We helped
about 300 servicemembers and their Families this year.”
The spirit of helping Soldiers and their Families with such things as
powers of attorney and other legal issues have helped keep Byers going
over the past few years.
Steen said she enjoyed the jobs she did and the people she worked with.
“If you enjoy your job, the time goes by quickly,” Steen said. “To the
people who follow me, I would say like your job and be willing and open
to training and changes.”
Col. Audrey (Aviva) Lewis, Fort McCoy ILO Command Judge Advocate and
Byers’ supervisor, said Byers is extremely dedicated to Soldiers, and if
they need help, she will help them.
“She brings a broad range of knowledge to the job, having served as a
legal clerk and also handling a lot of our administrative work, and with
her years of service has a lot of institutional knowledge,” Lewis said.
“She is a Wisconsin notary public, so she can help our clients with that
service or information to take care of many of their legal needs. I’m
not looking forward to losing her to retirement.”
Ginny Quirin, Steen’s supervisor, said Steen has been reliable, enjoys
her job and is a good team member.
“She wants to keep working until the last day she is here and has set a
good example for the other employees,” Quirin said. “She has a lot of
experience and will be missed. The other employees enjoyed working with
her and she enjoyed working with other people and taking pride in her
“She is involved in the training and mentoring of the people who are
replacing her and is helping with the transition,” Quirin said. “We’ll
be dividing her work among three people.”
Both Byers and Steen said they have seen a lot of changes over the
Byers said the biggest change she has witnessed is the renovation and
modernization of existing buildings and construction of new facilities.
When she worked in the 1000 block during Desert Storm in the 1990s,
which was referred to as the old hospital area, the buildings had plug
ins hanging from the ceilings and bad lighting.
Byers said renovations in those days consisted of adding overhead
lighting and installing heaters on the wall.
“When they did that, we knew we would be in the buildings for awhile,”
she said. The buildings have since been torn down to make way for newer
Steen said when she first started at RMO, employees entered the data on
punch cards and then moved to using floppy disks. There were boxes and
boxes of paper and reports to go through.
“Now everything is done on computers,” Steen said. “We also didn’t have
air conditioning when I began,” so working conditions are much more
In retirement, Byers plans to keep busy with volunteer work and more
time with her grandchildren. She begins serving, effective June 16, as
the state secretary of the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign
Wars. Byers also volunteers at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical
Center, is the co-coordinator of the Second Harvest in Cashton, and also
does volunteer work for the Cashton Cupboard and Closet, a second-hand
store, whose sales support the Cashton Food Pantry.
Steen’s retirement plans include traveling and spending more time with
her Family, including her grandson.