Army chemical school honors garrison employee
August 10, 2014
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Winning an award or being recognized for an achievement is always an honor, but having an award named after you takes things to a whole new level.
The U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear School in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. has recently created the RCSM James E. Van Patten Distinguished Award for their Advanced Leaders Course, named after U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria's own Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security director.
After 30 years in the U.S. Army Chemical Corp and 10 years as a Department of the Army Civilian, Van Patten has an impressive list of awards and accolades, but he admits this latest honor left him feeling blessed and humbled.
"I don't look for the recognition because it's about the team and how we can continue and improve the team for the future," Van Patten said. "The only reason I could achieve some prestigious honor like this was because of the people I've been fortunate to work with over time."
The decision to name the award after Van Patten was no fluke, but rather recognition of a lifetime of service.
"Command Sgt. Maj. (retired) Van Patten is a legend in our branch," said Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Arnold, who initiated the new award as the 12th regimental command sergeant major.
Van Patten served as the Chemical Corp's 7th regimental command sergeant major from 1998-2001 during which time he orchestrated the move of the CBRN from Fort McClellan to Fort Leonard Wood.
"I also got to do a lot of traveling around the world to visit chemical Soldiers and leaders at other installations, posts and camps," Van Patten said.
Arnold said the school wanted the award to be named after a prior Distinguished Member or Hall of Fame Member of the Corp who had given tirelessly back to the Corp both on active duty and after retirement. Van Patten was inducted as a Distinguished Member of the Corp in 2007, and he has continued his involvement with the Corp since his retirement in 2004.
"Van Patten also fit the bill perfectly as it relates to his academic achievements during all military schooling he attended," said Arnold, citing Van Patten's graduation with honors from the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy. Van Patten also graduated with Honors or as Distinguished Graduate at nearly every course he attended, as well as logging over 1200 hours in correspondence courses.
Van Patten attributes much of that success to a commitment to constant improvement.
"You have to continually grow every day," he said. "Not only does it make you feel good to grow and stretch, but it also sets the example for those that work with you and for you."
He added that it's equally important for leaders to take care of their Soldiers and families and to give them the opportunity to grow and excel.
"Their success is your success," he said.
Van Patten has mentored and trained thousands of chemical junior enlisted, NCOs and officers and said that he is available to help any who reach out to him. One of the main concepts he stresses is reputation.
"Everything you do contributes to your reputation, including your character, how you live the Army values, how you lead, coach, teach, train and mentor, and absolutely what you say because words matter," he said.
"You never know what kind of impact you're going to have on people," he added. "People are watching, even though you may not think so. Reputation matters."
Family is another source of strength for Van Patten and he credits much of his success to the support of his wife and family.
"There were sacrifices made for me as a husband and father," he said. "I know I wouldn't have been a success without my wife and family. There's a balance there, and it's a tough one."
As current DPTMS director at USAG Bavaria, Van Patten takes pride in helping to provide the services that help support Soldiers and their families, here.
"Being part of a team that takes care of this garrison across all the communities every day … knowing that I've got dedicated people who want to make a difference, that come to work every day doing a job that impacts across all 35,000 people between here (Grafenwoehr) and Garmisch; that's an awesome responsibility, and I'm proud to be a part of that," he said.
Van Patten said that Bavaria is a great place to live and work, in part because of the four distinct Army communities, but also because of the Bavarian people.
"The relationship we have with our Bavarian hosts, the communities surrounding our installations are very supportive of our mission and in taking care of our Soldiers, families and civilians," he said.
After 40 years in government service, Van Patten is still looking ahead to the next challenge. But he said having an award named after you is an honor and achievement that will be tough to beat.
"I'm not even dead yet, and they're naming something after me," he laughed. "That's pretty cool."