Fort McCoy News July 12, 2013

Neitzel retires after 40-plus years at McCoy

Public Affairs Staff

Fort McCoy's director of the Directorate of Public Works (DPW) has retired after a career at the installation that spanned more than 40 years. Few people working at the installation have the in-depth perspective of their organization than Darrell Neitzel.

Neitzel started his career at the entry level at then-Camp McCoy Dec. 27, 1971, as an electrical engineer intern for DPW.

PHOTO Neitzel

Neitzel has served in a number of positions in DPW, including chief of the Utilities Division, and chief of the Engineering Plans and Services Division before becoming the director of Support Services in 1994.

For about the past 20 years, Neitzel has served as the DPW director and retired with a total of 41.5 years of federal service, all at Fort McCoy.

"I have more perspective of how DPW worked and the installation operated because of my background and mentoring," Neitzel said. "My education started when I was hired by Art Jahnke (chief of the Utilities Division)."

Jahnke taught him many practical and technical engineering skills, Neitzel said. Another important figure in the DPW, Harold Needham, the DPW deputy director, also was instrumental in his development because he insisted Neitzel attend many schools and training to further his education, especially in the management field.

Fort McCoy, as a whole, has achieved many milestones during his career. Neitzel said one of the biggest accomplishments/satisfactions for him came in 1982 with the development of a comprehensive Master Plan and Land Use Plan.

This helped set the stage for Fort McCoy to become a Total Force Training Center.

The Master Plan guided the installation through its new major construction projects, projects that continue even as he leaves.

Renovation of the installation's World War II-era wood facilities also has been ongoing over the past six years or so, helped along by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as stimulus funding.

"These have gone a long way to making Fort McCoy the premier training center of the Army," Neitzel said. "The modernization of the ranges also goes hand-in-hand with this."

PHOTO 2 Neitzel
Darrell Neitzel, second from left, observes during a 1990 Arbor Day ceremony
at Fort McCoy.
Contributed photo

Neitzel's most-memorable events included the installation's mobilization missions, the A-76 (Commercial Activities) study decision to have many of the DPW and DOL functions performed by contractors, and the Cuban refugee mission — an intense mission that spanned several months in 1980.

Fort McCoy supported a mobilization mission during the Gulf War (Desert Shield/Desert Storm) in 1990-91. The installation also had a large post-war equipment repair mission, dubbed Desert Fix, to repair military equipment damaged during the war.

More recently, the installation supported a mobilization mission for the Global War on Terror from Sept. 11, 2001-Dec. 30, 2011.

This effort entailed mobilizing or demobilizing 140,197 personnel from 2,416 units.

Fort McCoy's mobilization mission during the Global War on Terror also overlapped with the privatization of the Directorate of Logistics (DOL)/DPW work forces. The contracted firm only had been providing services for about two months when the installation's mobilization mission was ramped up, Neitzel said. Many members of the DOL/DPW work force had taken early retirement through the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority Act or a financial incentive through the Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay program to leave the DOL/DPW work force. So acquiring a large mobilization mission included a lot of extra work to redo the contract, he added.

"The mobilization also was the first time we ever had a Central Issue Facility (CIF)," Neitzel said. "It was a big deal and a big help to the units to ensure their Soldiers" had or could get the right equipment.

The installation still has a CIF to serve reserve-component Soldiers, and a new facility has been approved and will begin construction later this year. (See related article)

Even though Neitzel said it took him several years to realize the importance, the renaming of Camp McCoy to Fort McCoy in 1974 was a significant event.

"The old-timers here at that time were very excited because it changed Fort McCoy's stature in the eyes of the Department of the Army and Department of Defense," Neitzel said. "It also marked the beginning of the large expansion of training after that."

Before 1974, the units that came to train at the installation were here for summer training. After the installation attained fort status, the focus was more on units in the area training at the installation, another sign the installation was becoming a Total Force Training Center, he said.

McCoy's off-post missions have evolved over the years, he said. The installation acquired a few off-post missions in the mid-1970s. The Base Realignment and Closure actions from the mid-1990s also added to Fort McCoy's mission, as the installation picked up the remaining Fort Sheridan, Ill., Devens, Mass., etc., support missions after those installations closed.

McCoy also served as a parent organization to Fort Hunter Liggett and Parks Reserve Forces Training Area in California. Overall, the DPW's off-post missions lasted about 30 years, from about the mid-1970s to the first decade of the 2000s, he said.

Lately, Fort McCoy's has used its Strategic Business Plan to achieve success. Neitzel said one of the key drivers has been Al Fournier, the Deputy to the Garrison Commander. Fournier is one of the few civilian employees in the garrison who has served longer than Neitzel has, beginning his career at McCoy about two weeks earlier than when Neitzel started in December 1971.

Fournier picked up where his former mentors left off and has been very supportive of the DPW for the past 15 to 20 years, Neitzel said.

"The Strategic Business Plan also has been very important to help us achieve the goals we've accomplished in the past 15 to 20 years," he said.

As his service wrapped up, Neitzel said the installation is in good hands and has a bright future.

"My hope is a number of the young people hired at Fort McCoy over the past few years continue on with the strong tradition of caring for the Soldiers and continue to use our Strategic Business Plan to guide them into the future," Neitzel said. "I've greatly enjoyed my work here."