[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                    August 22, 2008

Legal office employee honored 
for 40 years of service

By Rob Schuette, The Real McCoy Staff

Serving people, especially those in the military or veterans, keeps work enjoyable for a 40-year federal employee in the Fort McCoy Installation Legal Office (ILO).

Photo: Rita Byers (left) of the Fort McCoy Installation Legal Office is recognized for 40 years of federal service by Garrison Commander Col. David E. Chesser. (Photo by Rob Schuette
Rita Byers (left) of the Fort McCoy Installation Legal Office is recognized for 40 years of federal service by Garrison Commander Col. David E. Chesser. (Photo by Rob Schuette)

Rita Byers, a paralegal specialist who has worked at the ILO for the past 22 years was honored Aug. 5 at Fort McCoy for becoming one of a select group of federal civilian employees who has reached 40 years of federal service. She doesnít plan to slow down anytime soon.

Garrison Commander Col. David E. Chesser presented Byers with a certificate, pin and a letter of congratulations/recognition from Maj. Gen. John A. Macdonald, deputy commanding general for the Installation Management Command (IMCOM), at an ILO awards ceremony. Chesser noted that he can sign length of service certificates for federal civilian personnel who have up to 35 years of government service, but the policy is different for those who reach the 40-year milestone.

"When personnel have 40 years of service, it goes directly to IMCOM," Chesser said. "It was signed by Major General Macdonald. It is my pleasure to present this certificate, pin and letter of congratulations to her."

Byers took a circuitous route in her federal career before coming to Fort McCoy in 1976. She graduated from Cashton High School in 1966 and went directly to work for the FBI in Washington, D.C.

"My mother was looking for a career for me so when she heard about the FBI opening, she filled out a post card and sent it in," Byers said. "I received the (10-page) application, but put it aside figuring Iíd fill it out later."

"Then one day, I was called to the principalís office at Cashton," Byers continued. "I had never been to the principalís office before so I was worried about what was happening. Then, the principal and (the man from the FBI) stood up and welcomed me into the office. The man (from the FBI) suggested I fill out the forms and return them."

Byers did, passed the clerical test and was accepted.

After spending a year in the FBI in Washington, D.C., she returned to the Cashton area. Byers said she temporarily worked for Gateway Transportation Company in La Crosse, replacing a woman who was pregnant, before resuming her federal and FBI career in Milwaukee.

After about three-and-one-half years in Milwaukee, she decided to move onto her next duty station. As was customary in those days, she had to list three choices. So she listed locations with a similar climate to Wisconsin: embassy locations in Ottawa, Canada; Bonn, Germany and Bern, Switzerland.

"Fate stepped in and I was allowed to post into the (GS-8) Bern position (as I was a GS-7)," Byers said. "Otherwise, consideration would have been opened up on a nationwide basis."

At Bern, Byers met her late husband, Paul Byers, a Marine sergeant who worked as a security guard at the embassy.

Sgt. Byersí next assignment was at Camp Pendleton, Calif., so they moved there. At first, Rita didnít work. But when the coupleís first child came, they decided it would be easier financially if she went back to work. Rita first worked for the Provost Marshalís Office and then for the Naval Investigative Service.

When Sgt. Byersí term of duty was ending, he was told he had to complete his General Equivalency Diploma to continue serving. The paperwork got lost so he decided to separate from service, Byers said. The couple decided their prospects were best if they moved back to the Cashton area.

Byers resumed her federal career when she began working at Fort McCoy in 1976 for the Communications Command, which later became the Directorate of Information Management.

Then in 1986 she made a lateral transfer to the Judge Advocate Office, which is now known as ILO as a legal assistant.

"I had run and been elected to be the municipal judge in Cashton (a nonpartisan position) in 1979," Byers said. "That taught me how to read statutes and do legal research. I also used my training in the FBI. The rest I picked up through on-the-job experience."

Byers continues to enjoy her ILO duties, which include preparing power of attorney documents, reviewing and forwarding traffic tickets to the federal magistrate court, and working with the U.S. Attorneyís Office.

She also handles ILO administrative matters and helps run the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program each tax season. She enjoys helping veterans on and off the job, doing work with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary in her off-duty time.

"I liked accounting in high school so now itís nice to help Soldiers with their taxes," Byers said. "Iím still ready to come into work each morning. I have no immediate plans to retire."

During her career at Fort McCoy, Byers was the second recipient of the then-Federal Womenís Program outstanding achievement award in 1986 and earned a Commanderís Award for Civilian Service in 2003.

Col. Daniel Culver, the ILO Judge Advocate, said itís a pleasure to have Byers work in the office, and she is an invaluable historical resource.

"After 40 years, Rita has kept up her level of enthusiasm and commitment in every thing she does," Culver said. "Sheís good at everything she does. Iím looking forward to continue working with her."


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