By Mike Howard (Fort Carson)August 29, 2013
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- An Army-level award announced earlier this month translates to Soldiers who can focus on fighting and winning in the war they fight. At least that's been the hope and driving motivator behind the efforts on Fort Carson to earn it.
The Mountain Post was named as having the top Army Community Service for installations its size for 2012. The Installation Award of Excellence for ACS is an annual award given by Installation Management Command, one in each of the categories of large, medium and small. Fort Carson competes in the large category. Fort Polk, La., won in the medium category while Weisbaden, Germany, took first in the small category.
What this recognition means, according to ACS Director Patricia Randle, is that a community has come together in its devotion to providing a useful service to Families, Soldiers and Department of the Army civilians assigned to Fort Carson.
"This award is, really, for the collaboration we have here," Randle said.
"Always, we want to help people. We want people to know that they are better off by coming to ACS when they have Family issues to resolve. We know that when our Soldiers and Department of the Army civilians deploy, their spouses don't want to tell them about Family issues at home.
They want their husbands and wives to be able to fight and win the war.
"We want our Soldiers and civilians to rest easy that we have their backs. We couldn't do what we do if it were not for our company, battalion and brigade commanders knowing that we can help them focus on the task at hand. And we couldn't do it without working with our partners both inside and outside the gate."
Judging for the award looks at five aspects of an ACS team: Using unique ways to meet customer needs, receiving recognition from "outside-the-gate" partners, improving ACS operations, providing quality services and involving commander support in programs.
Highlights from these categories included programs such as the volunteers, financial readiness, spouse employment assistance, Army Emergency Relief, Family advocacy, Family outreach, respite assistance for parents or spouses of handicapped Family members, exceptional Family member and Army Family teambuilding.
"Your collaboration efforts in the community with events such as the Military Children and Youth Symposium, Operation Baby Shower and the Army 101 program are truly noteworthy," wrote Suzi Bach in a letter included in the nomination packet. She is the wife of Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach.
"Your tireless efforts in communicating through the Warrior Family Community Partnership initiative have resulted in making information and resources known to many nonprofits and agencies that call Colorado Springs home. Your dedication and devotion in building relationships truly represents the spirit of the Colorado Springs community."
Another letter highlighted an employment workshop within the Transition Assistance Program.
The Soldier and Family Assistance Center "delivers an outstanding program and provides a quality workshop to the men and women who are separating from military service," wrote Josh McDaniel, from the Department of Labor. "All of the workshop partners appear to work well with each other, putting the needs of the servicemember as their No. 1 priority."
Other letters from the community noted services.
Much of this recent recognition is about ACS coming of age due to needs that naturally came out of the deployment pressure of Fort Carson units to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Randle. Randle, who came to ACS in 1990 and held several different jobs on the ACS staff before being made director in 2006, remembers when the program had eight employees, while today there are about 50 Department of Defense civilians.
"We used to be known as the loan closet where you could get pots and pans," she said. "If you look at the myriad services we provide today and how we provide them, we've morphed 20-times past that."
Randle pointed to what she called a starting place.
"It was pre-Internet days," she said. "Many of our junior Soldiers living off post with their Families were not necessarily in the best of areas. We had to actually drive a motor-home type van out to where our target audience lived. We'd drive out four days a week providing child care and even teeth cleaning.
"(Maj. Gen.) Dennis Reimer, the commanding general at the time, and his wife, Mary Jo, bought the van for us. While the van turned out to be so critical for what we needed to do, what the Reimers actually gave us was a precedent of commanders on this installation recognizing the importance of taking care of Families."