Fort Rucker earns Army Communities of Excellence Award Gold
Col. Stuart J. McRae, right, Fort Rucker, Ala., garrison commander, speaks with Secretary of the Army John McHugh, as Timothy Laster, director of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and Toni Hampton, child development center, look on during the secretary's visit to Fort Rucker March 18-19, 2013. Fort Rucker earned Army-level Army Communities of Excellence Award Gold honors recently.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 11, 2013) -- Fort Rucker gained nationwide recognition and proved that it truly is above the best when it was announced in late March that the installation won top Gold honors in the 2013 Chief of Staff of the Army Communities of Excellence Award program.

The Army Communities of Excellence, or ACOE, program is an annual assessment of garrisons across the Army to foster a culture of continuous improvement and identify those organizations that epitomize installation excellence, according to Cynthia Ranchino, lead plans specialist, Plans, Analysis and Integration Office.

"The competition looks at how your organization embodies what is found in the [highest] performing organizations. Things like: if you have visionary leadership and a focus on the future; how good is your organizational performance and learning; how you value your workforce, members and partners; that you manage for innovation and by fact; that you focus on results in creating value; and that you have agility, societal responsibility, a systems perspective and customer driven excellence. So we have to explain how the garrison embodies that," she said.

The garrison was graded by a package, which consisted of an organizational profile and a 30-page narrative assessment. The narrative assessment described the garrison's systematic approach to leadership; strategic planning; customers; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce; and operations and results, she said.

Winning the award means more than getting national recognition, though, according to Col. Stuart J. McRae, garrison commander.

"The ACOE Gold award recognizes the installation, across the entire Army, whose performance system and workforce interact with each other better than every other installation. The way in which Fort Rucker takes care of our Soldiers, family members, and civilians is recognized at the chief of staff of the Army level, [and is] the best in the Army," he said.

Fort Rucker had previously earned ACOE Chief of Staff, Army Finalist in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and ACOE Army Exemplary Practice in 2010 and 2011.

The installation is, though, a first-time recipient of the Gold award for installation excellence.

"It has been a journey, it is all about continuous improvement and striving for excellence in everything we do. Every year we get feedback on what our strengths are and where we can improve, and that becomes the building blocks of what we do. We address those areas that we can fix so it is better next time," said Ranchino.

In the commander's narrative portion of the package, highlights of different things the garrison has done and improvements Fort Rucker has made in the last year are laid out.

"Some of our improvements [were] in quality of life, energy, unit morale, communications, and safety and health," said the lead plans specialist.

When it comes to making changes on post, officials said that it all starts with pulling in the voice of the customer and then taking action.

"We have a lot of people that think and work out of the box. So that has helped us get an e-cycling program going, and new facilities built like a new Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers building, get enhanced substance abuse prevention programs and electric carts on some of the airfields," said Ranchino.

The voice of the customer, along with the day-to-day laborers combined is what made the achievement possible, according to Deena Jones, supervisory strategic planning specialist, Plans, Analysis and Integration Office.

"A lot of it comes from the personal excellence that people pursue on the front lines, like the customers and attendants in the identification card department. It was a team effort post wide, Soldier and civilian," she said.

McRae agreed that it is truly a team win for everyone on Fort Rucker.

"Individual superstars do not make a winning team if the team as a whole doesn't play well together. At Fort Rucker, although we have many superstars, we work well together as a team," he said.

The package is based on the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, which has a specific outline that has to be followed and, according to Jones, it is a huge accomplishment for this installation to be recognized as the best.

"It's not what we do, but how we do things. The post has to continually try to improve on itself on this system. It is how you mature in performance excellence," she said.

There were 36 Army installations in the competition, but installations do not compete against each other necessarily, according to officials.

"It is not how we compare to Fort Campbell, Ky., or Fort Bragg, N.C). It is how does Fort Rucker rate against that criteria. What we do with what we have and how we do it is what matters," said Jones.

Even though many, if not all installations, are taking budget cuts, it is how those budget cuts are handled and how a garrison is able to continue to provide services for its workers that helps decide who wins Gold.

"It is a complex process. It is how a base decides to cut programs, and how and why it is done. Taking a difficult situation and handling it in a professional way while taking the customer's opinion into consideration," said the supervisory strategic planning specialist.

Because of Fort Rucker's win this year, the post will not compete in the competition next year, Jones added.

Page last updated Thu April 11th, 2013 at 18:40