Farrisee reflects on career, relocation, transition
August 7, 2012
Maj. Gen. Gina S. Farrisee relinquishes command of U.S. Army Human Resources Command to Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mustion Aug. 10 at HRC's Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Maude Complex headquarters at Ft Knox, Ky. Following the change-of-command ceremony, Farrisee, the first-ever female commander of HRC, will retire after a distinguished 34-year career.
What inspired you to make the Army a career?
People inspired me to make the Army a career. Never in a million years did I think I would still be in the Army today, much less past my first three-year commitment. In the beginning, it was a stretch to think I'd serve three years. But once you serve with the amazing Soldiers and people who are part of this Army institution you just can't leave it.
Who influenced you throughout your career?
There are so many people who influence a 34-year career. As a second lieutenant, I had many NCOs and senior leaders who influenced me. The NCOs ensured that I did what was right as a leader, and senior leaders had confidence in me -- probably more confidence than I had in myself -- and that inspired me to do more and more. They gave me extra projects and asked me to do more. I just continued to do it with love because every bit of it had to do with taking care of Soldiers and their families.
Was there a position or assignment you enjoyed or found especially challenging?
People always ask about the best assignment or place you ever lived. All I can say is every single one was great. Every job was challenging. I learned something different, and in every position I learned how to make a difference. My husband and I made the most of every place we were assigned. We certainly enjoyed all the friends we made, the new people we met at every single assignment, sometimes a new cultural opportunity. There wasn't one job that I didn't enjoy. I may have enjoyed some a little more than others, but I enjoyed every single job I had. I treasured them all. Having the opportunity to command -- and I've had that opportunity six times -- is an amazing opportunity, an honor and a privilege.
If you could go back to 1978 and have lunch with 2nd Lt. Farrisee, what advice would you give?
Take every opportunity the Army offers. Don't turn down any opportunity for schools. Make sure in every job you do, you do the very best you can -- whether it's a job you cherish or a job you're not sure you want. Every single job has to be done like you're the best in the business, and it will show. The other thing is you have to stay physically fit. It is very important, and it makes a difference. If you're going to be a role model, you have to stand out front and you have to be able to lead from the front.
How do you deal with discouragement in challenging assignments?
I was never discouraged. I may have been challenged, and in those challenging times you just rise to the occasion. You do whatever you have to do to overcome those challenges. You use all your resources. You find the right people who can assist and make sure that -- whatever the challenge -- you've met it in the best way that you can -- you've provided the best answers you can. There are a lot of challenges. Some are personal. Some are for the Army, and you may be affecting a lot of people. You take every challenge seriously, and you make sure you come up with the right solution.
What advice would you give female Soldiers just starting out in the military?
The Army is an amazing opportunity. For those looking for a challenge and wanting to make a difference, it is certainly the place to do that. There is no doubt in my mind that the military makes you a better person. The Army allows you to grow, educates you and allows you to do things you never thought you could do. It will encourage you, and for those who do a great job it will reward you for doing that great job. The Army opened many, many doors for me.
I will add that the Army is not an easy life. It will constantly be a challenge of balancing your life with the Army, but it certainly can be done. There have been many successful women -- women with families, women without families -- who have continued to lead very successful careers.
To what do you attribute the successful relocation of HRC to Fort Knox?
The command was still arriving when I got here in 2010. I think that the merger, the integration and move has been an absolute success. I believe what we accomplished in two years is amazing given a merger of three locations, of that many people including Soldiers, civilians, contractors and obviously family members. To get where we are now, most organizations would take three to five years. I'm more than impressed with where we are at two years. We came into this with eyes wide open, knowing that integration would not be easy. Collocation is pretty easy; integration is not. I believe the leaders who came to Fort Knox -- many making a choice and a sacrifice -- made a difference because the others making the move saw leaders make the decision to move with the command. We lost a lot of experts, but we brought a lot of experts to Fort Knox. We put a lot of weight on those experts to teach new personnel, and they did that tremendously well. There have been some bumps in the road, and there are still some issues that need to be resolved. Everybody took it seriously that we are here to serve Soldiers, veterans and their families, and they wanted to do the very best they could.
We had to do some phenomenal things. The movement of the mainframe and the IT technology that had to be done took almost a year after I got here to complete. But the team got it done, and it was completely transparent to our customers. Few realized that the move had actually been completed and that everything we were doing was happening from Fort Knox. The move was transparent to everyone we serve around the world. I commend everyone who had anything to do with that move because some phenomenal work has been done.
What will you miss?
Obviously, I'll miss the people. There's no institution in the world like this Army. It's amazing how much senior leaders care, and ensure we do the right thing for Soldiers and their families. There are certainly many more difficult decisions that senior leaders of this Army are going to have to make with the future that lies ahead of us. But none of that changes the fact that people are the most important part of our Army because they are what makes up our Army.
What will you do next?
I really don't have any plans yet. It's difficult to think about what you're going to do in the future while you're still wearing this uniform and continuing with a mission I consider so important that I really didn't want to take the time to think about it (the future) yet. I did the Army Career and Alumni Program to test it out -- to see how Soldiers do it -- and developed a résumé.
HRC administers the ACAP process. What advice do you have for transitioning Soldiers?
Everyone needs to take transition seriously. There are many opportunities available. There are many companies looking to hire veterans. Employers have come to the Army searching for how to connect with veterans. We are working to get better at making that connection. We want to better explain the types of skills Soldiers bring -- not just hard skills but those soft skills like being ethical, having values, having morals. They're the kind of attributes that make a Soldier a better person in a workplace.