Fort McCoy News June 10, 2016

New deputy to garrison commander reflects on first months in position

Public Affairs Staff

When Deputy to the Garrison Commander James A. Chen arrived at Fort McCoy Jan. 11, typically chilly Wisconsin weather welcomed him. However, after four-plus months in the job, he said he received a warm welcome from the Fort McCoy workforce.

"I've been impressed with the workforce here," Chen said. "They are a professional, hard-working, and dedicated team. I'm impressed with the accomplishments that have been achieved here."

He pointed out that Fort McCoy has won many Department of the Army- and Department of Defense-level awards "that you don't particularly find in garrisons elsewhere."

Deputy to the Garrison Commander James A. Chen
Deputy to the Garrison Commander James A. Chen

"It's a privilege to have been selected to serve with this community," he said.

Chen, a retired Army colonel, served 29 years in the transportation/joint specialty career fields. While in uniform, progressively responsible assignments took him to the United States, Germany, Japan, Korea, and Kuwait.

Chen began his federal civil-service career in 2007 as the deputy support operations officer with the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, 8th U.S. Army, in South Korea. He later was program manager, BAE Systems Inc. (A-76 Directorate of Logistics), Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and then returned to civil service as deputy to the garrison commander, U.S. Army Garrison, Baumholder, Germany.

Though he has been to many places around the world, Chen said this is his first exposure to Fort McCoy. The experience he gained during previous Installation Management Command (IMCOM) assignments has helped him flow into the deputy to the garrison commander position here, he said.

"It's transparent," Chen said. "I am still part of the IMCOM Family. The only thing that is different is the local environment."

Settling in

Chen said he's constantly learning more about the Fort McCoy team and the troops who use the installation to train.

"I'm learning a lot about the (reserve-component forces) and what they do more and more every day," Chen said. "Here, the customer base is different. In Germany, we had many people who were permanently stationed there because it's an active-duty location. Here it is more of a transient (training) population."

In addition to learning more about the Fort McCoy workforce, Chen also is getting building awareness and knowledge of the capabilities of the many tenant units on post. He refers to these units as "partners" that fit in with Fort McCoy's motto as a "Total Force Training Center."

"We are here to work together as a team. … Everyone has to work together to make … this community thrive," he said.

Strategic planning

Chen also is the first new deputy to the garrison commander at Fort McCoy in several decades. He credited his predecessor, Albert R. Fournier, for helping to set the future with his work on the Fort McCoy Strategic Business Plan.

"I think they got it right," Chen said. "I'm very impressed with the installation management systems and the strategic business plan we have here at Fort McCoy.

"The blueprint we follow is strategically focused," Chen said. "There are a lot of places that might talk about a five-year strategic plan or business plan, but it's just a lot of talk. There are seven pillars that supplement (our) strategic plan … and I think we can continue to improve our infrastructure and help get our installation modernized for the future. We have to continue to stay relevant to our Army and to the needs of our country. This plan lays that all out."

The strategic plan, along with the Fort McCoy workforce and partners, will help the installation to continue expanding its customer base, Chen said.

"We are looking at ways to do that," he said. "We want to improve our training capability and capacity and, along with that, make sure we have adequate modern facilities available for training. This is, again, where we continue to work together with all of our partners.

"I think the future is good," Chen said. "We're not only providing for the training needs of the reserve component, but we also are offering that opportunity to the active-duty component and extending that out to other services."

Continuous learning

Throughout his decades of military and government-civilian service, Chen said many people have served as mentors and influences in his life. As an Army second lieutenant in the late 1970s, he said many noncommissioned officers helped mold his leadership philosophy.

And as his career has grown, those mentors and influential people also included other officers, civilians, and contractors. It's proof, he said, that to be a good leader and manager, you always have to be open to learning from others.

"I have had a lot of people who have shaped my life and my philosophy," Chen said. "Even now, here at Fort McCoy, some of the people who I work with are still shaping how I see how to manage. It could be anybody.

"It's people who are experts in what they do and are dedicated professionals. Sometimes I will take their traits and apply them to what I do. You never stop learning," he said

Chen said his leadership philosophy is simple.

"Be passionate about what you do, do the best that you can, and be flexible. Listen and learn, and take care of your people," he said.

Two things need to be managed well in any successful organization — people and money, Chen said.

"If you manage those two areas well, with the ability to work with other people, then things will fall in place."

Chen said he will do his best to help Fort McCoy continue to be successful.

"I think McCoy has a bright future," he said. "It has a lot to offer to the Army and to our nation during peacetime as well as during other times. … Fort McCoy is a tremendous asset to the Department of Defense."

For more information about Chen, see his biography at