By Ms. Rikeshia Davidson (AMC)January 21, 2014
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- "Anytime I can sing the praises of a career with the government, I do," said Darlene Coffey. After more than 30 years, she's aptly qualified to tell the story of government life.
Beginning her federal service as a GS-3 clerk-typist, Coffey made her career in human resources, specifically civilian personnel.
In early January with 30 years of experience, she officially retired as chief, Personnel Development and Policy Division for the Joint Munitions Command, Rock Island Arsenal.
A Boscobel, Wis., native, Coffey's career in human resources took her from Wisconsin to Illinois and even Baghdad and Balad, Iraq.
However, her placement in human resources was almost by luck.
"I ended up doing (human resources) work quite by accident. I had taken the civil service test and, back then, they used the pool of candidates to make selections for multiple offices. I was lucky enough to be at the top of the list when the Civilian Personnel Office was filling a clerk-typist position. I loved the work so much that I stayed with it," said Coffey.
That was 1983 at Savanna Army Depot, Savanna, Ill. More than 10 years later as Savanna faced closure, Coffey would move back to Wisconsin to work for the Department of Interior at the Upper Mississippi Science Center in LaCrosse.
Shortly after her experience in LaCrosse, Coffey began working at Rock Island Arsenal as a classification and staffing team leader for the North Central Civilian Personnel Operations Center.
Sometime later, she joined the Joint Munitions Command and assumed supervisory duties as a human resources specialist. It was with JMC that Coffey would lead from a different environment.
In 2009, Coffey started a 9-month deployment to Baghdad and Balad in support of the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade. With her Iraq deployment, Coffey gained an unexpected perspective.
"Being able to deploy to Iraq showed me firsthand the direct assistance JMC provides the warfighter every single day and I am so lucky to be able to share a minute part in that," she said.
From the firsthand understanding of working in theater to the uniqueness of the mission, Coffey gained other on-the-job experience.
"The biggest difference for me was the large military and contractor component. I'd never been responsible for contractors before. And all of my previous assignments had either no military or very few," said Coffey.
Returning back to Rock Island Arsenal, Coffey put her recent deployment to use as chief, Personnel Development and Policy Division.
In an area of constant engagement with other employees, Coffey's career in human resources proved rewarding not only professionally but personally. She's quick to share how special the 30 years have been.
"To work my way up through the ranks from a GS-3 clerk-typist -- with only a 1-year vocational degree -- to a division chief in a major subordinate command Civilian Personnel Office is an accomplishment I'm very proud of.
"I don't believe I could have been nearly as successful had I not been working for the government, (having) phenomenal supervisors and co-workers to mentor me," she said.
Coffey's co-workers felt just as privileged to work alongside her.
"Darlene was an HR expert and a great supervisor. She was always excited to share her knowledge and grow the people around her.
"JMC was lucky to have her (and) her expertise and positive attitude will be missed everyday!" said Kara Stetson, JMC human resources program specialist.
And while she cherishes her role within various offices over the years, Coffey relishes her retirement choosing to return to Wisconsin. Mother to Ron (Manuela), Nicholas (Kari), Christopher and Sean, she has a plan for the future and it keeps everyone -- family and friends -- within reach.
"I wanted to live closer to family after retirement. Being in southwest Wisconsin puts me closer to two of my sons and a lot of my extended family, while still being only two hours from friends I've made since working in the Quad Cities and at Savanna Army Depot," she said.
From its headquarters in Rock Island, Ill., JMC operates a nationwide network of conventional ammunition manufacturing plants and storage depots, and provides on-site ammunition experts to U.S. combat units wherever they are stationed or deployed. JMC's customers are U.S. forces of all military services, other U.S. Government agencies, and allied nations.