New civilian leader brings experience, passion to garrison
May 12, 2011
Military and installation experience, as well as a love for the North Country, are three things that will help Fort Drum's new deputy to the garrison commander do his job and do it well.
Michael McKinnon, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Fort Drum's former director of logistics, assumed responsibility as the garrison's highest-ranking civilian employee last month.
McKinnon served for 23 years in the military. He describes his Army career as somewhat unusual, because he spent six years in leadership positions at the garrison staff level, which he said helped prepare him to lead this garrison.
His first experience with Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) came during his assignment to 2nd Brigade, where he served as the S-4 and later as battalion executive officer with 3rd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, which deployed to Somalia during Operation Restore Hope from 1992 to 1993.
In 1995 he returned to Fort Drum, at his request, and served as the deputy chief of staff, deputy G-3 and director of logistics until 1997. He was the last military director of logistics, and in 2005 he returned once again to lead DOL as a civilian.
Following retirement from the Army, which was just one month before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, McKinnon took a job in the private sector. He worked at Gwynn Vaughan Insurance Inc. for four years, but he soon realized he missed the military and decided to return as a civilian government employee.
"I really enjoyed the Army and I missed it a lot," he said, adding that his son's decision to join the Army made him reevaluate his private sector job choice.
McKinnon and his family decided to come back to Fort Drum. He said they made that choice for a number of reasons, the first one being the dedicated civilian work force at the installation.
"I had a lot of friends in the Directorate of Logistics that I admired, respected and enjoyed working with, and when the opportunity presented itself to come back and be part of that team again, I jumped at the chance," he said.
He also chose to return to the North Country because he enjoys the community, on and off post. The symbiotic relationship between Fort Drum and the community is unlike any other Army installation, McKinnon noted, adding there is great mutual respect and support between the two entities.
"My experience with the 10th Mountain Division was that it is a highly trained division, and I wanted to be part of that," McKinnon said, noting that, because of the war, today's Army is different from when he was here, but Fort Drum has remained "a great place to raise a Family."
"I think having been a director on this installation is a great advantage because it gives me a perspective that my subordinate directors have," he said. "I've been in their position."
"Mike McKinnon has the experience to be great at this new position - but maybe more import- antly, he has the heart to be extraordinary," said Col. Noel T. Nicolle, garrison commander. "He has proved his dedication to Soldiers and Families, and those who support them, through a lifetime of service. The garrison command sergeant major is my right hand, and the deputy is my left. I am very pleased with this team."
One of McKinnon's duties as the deputy will be to practice executive leadership, which he said he will do through prioritization and resourcing.
"I will help the garrison commander determine what needs to get done, by making sure we have the resources to provide the most critical services and by making sure directors have clear-cut guidance on what direction to go in," said McKinnon, who supervises 13 garrison directors.
Safety, health, force protection measures, infrastructure, community events, Family programs and public works are just a few of the day-to-day base operations that McKinnon oversees as deputy to the garrison commander.
"It's not a stretch to say the deputy to the garrison commander has to have his finger on the pulse of every directorate in this garrison," Nicolle said. "But he also has to empower the directors to lead as the experts. His experience glues these two, sometimes seemingly divergent, efforts together. It just works."
McKinnon said he also must look toward the future, because the Army and Department of Defense are facing potential budget cuts, resulting in fewer resources available than in previous years. He said he and the garrison staff will have to make some tough decisions on priorities and resources.
He said he's already thinking about the garrison's future and prepared to make recommendations that will ensure critical requirements are accomplished and innovative ideas are implemented.
His biggest priority is planning for any challenges the next couple of years will bring, such as limited resources for Soldiers and Families, which he recognizes by noting, "the entire garrison has to have that focus; we're here to support Soldiers and their Families in a period of persistent conflict."
"The Fort Drum civilian work force has faced challenges before," he said, noting one such challenge when the 10th Mountain Division (LI) made its move to Fort Drum more than 25 years ago. "They stepped up to the plate and did things extremely well to stand up this division, ... and I'm sure the work force is going to be up to the task again as we go forward in the future.
"The work force has never failed to support our Soldiers and their Families, and even though things are going to get tough in the future, they are up to that challenge," he added.
McKinnon earned a bachelor of arts degree in international studies from The Ohio State University and a master's degree in public administration from Shippensburg University.
His awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, six Meritorious Service Medals, Superior Civilian Service Award, five Army Commendation Medals, Commander's Award for Civilian Service, three Army Achievement Medals, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Expert Infantryman Badge, Ranger Tab and the Parachutist and Air Assault badges.