Fort McCoy News Jan. 22, 2016

Garrison deputy commander reflects on 1st 100 days

Public Affairs Staff

Reflecting on his first 100 days as garrison deputy commander, Lt. Col. James A. Parkinson said, "Every day is different, unpredictable, exciting, and challenging."

Parkinson assumed duties as the garrison deputy commander Sept. 25, 2015. He previously served as the chief of Plans, Analysis and Integration at the 88th Regional Support Command (RSC), a Fort McCoy tenant organization, where he'd served for about a year before he learned of the opportunity to become garrison deputy commander.

Since starting his new role, he said he's gained a better understanding of the installation's scope and abilities. His job at the 88th RSC was focused more narrowly, and he didn't have as many opportunities to learn about Fort McCoy's capabilities.

"I came in the Main Gate, took a right (turn), went to the (88th RSC) headquarters building, and didn't really engage with what the installation has to offer," Parkinson said.

Garrison Deputy Commander Lt. Col. James A. Parkinson (standing) leads
a session of the garrison and tenant organization staff meeting at the Staff Sgt. Todd R. Cornell Noncommissioned Officer Academy.
Photo by Scott T. Sturkol

He said his priorities and goals for the installation are aligned with Garrison Commander Col. Steven W. Nott's: taking care of the units that come to train at Fort McCoy and the people who are at the garrison, as well as spreading the word about what Fort McCoy has to offer.

"We have an important story to tell the rest of the Army about what we can do here," Parkinson said. "It's a rare opportunity to be on an installation that's as big as this, has so many different training opportunities, and has such a unique and varied climate. We can appeal to any unit in the Army."

He said he'd also like to spread that message outside of the Army, Army Reserve, and National Guard. Fort McCoy has hosted Air Force, Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard units, and Parkinson said continued marketing of the installation to the joint services is important.

"One of the things that's unique about McCoy is that you can get here by air, rail, ground, and sea. It's pretty exciting," Parkinson said. "Any type of unit can come to Fort McCoy, and part of their exercise is how they get here. (For example,) they can come up the Mississippi River and offload (at the Brownsville Barge Site in Brownsville, Minn.)"

Parkinson said getting the training numbers to balance a little more is important, particularly by attracting more customers during the second quarter of the fiscal year, January through March, for winter and cold-weather training.

The most important goal right now is to market the installation and its training capabilities to potential customers, Parkinson said. More than 155,000 Soldiers trained at Fort McCoy in fiscal year 2015, and installation staff wants the 2016 training total to exceed that.

Working with Soldiers and civilian staff of the garrison has been an excellent experience, he said, adding that he's never been stationed at another place where so many people were happy to be there and come to work.

"I've been very pleased with the caliber of people," Parkinson said. "A lot of these people have been here such a long time; they really understand their specific areas."

His personal goal for his time at Fort McCoy is to learn as much as he can, since the garrison environment and working with Installation Management Command are new experiences for him, and he's looking forward to learning how to manage a garrison.

He's also enrolled in the two-year Distance Education Program at the U.S. Army War College, and he said he has to find about 20 hours a week to work on his Master of Strategic Studies degree.

Parkinson said he'd like to tell both civilians and Soldiers at Fort McCoy that they're in an excellent location with many opportunities available to them.

He said in his experience, people who come to Fort McCoy don't want to leave again, and he included himself and his Family among that group.

"I'd like to be able to finish out my career here at Fort McCoy," Parkinson said.

He said he and his Family are happy to be at Fort McCoy, with the opportunities available to them in the area. "We're really happy to be back in the Midwest. We really appreciate the Family values and the great outdoors in this part of the country."

"I think it's one of the best installations in the Army," Parkinson said. "There are so many things that make us unique, and I'd like people to know that we're really fortunate to be stationed here. It's a pretty close-knit community from what I've seen in the year I've been here."