By Fort Sill Tribune staffFebruary 1, 2018
FORT SILL, Okla. (Feb. 1, 2018) -- Directing a division of over a dozen programs, which provide a variety of social services to military members and their families, retirees, DA civilians and contractors and their families, takes an educated and experienced manager with a compassion for military culture.
It also takes one who can work with civilian agencies, one who is forward thinking, and who sees challenges as opportunities.
So when longtime Fort Sill Family Advocacy Program (FAP) manager Lisa Jansen-Rees was selected to be the new Army Community Service (ACS) director, it was no surprise. For 20 years, Jansen-Rees worked tirelessly at the FAP: first as a domestic abuse victim advocate, and most recently as its program manager.
She has a social work background (Academy of Certified Social Workers), and has spent the majority of her career working with the military in social services. She's also the wife of an Army retiree and the daughter of a Marine. Two uncles served in Vietnam; one did not return.
"I'm so excited to have the opportunity to take all the ACS programs and work with them to really strengthen our community," said Jansen-Rees, who has been on the job since Jan. 7. "Social services has always been interesting to me."
The Hoosier from the Gary-area served as the acting ACS director for three weeks after Jean Mills retired after about five years as director.
ACS falls under the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (FMWR). It is the only appropriated fund division under FMWR, so its 31 employees are GS (general schedule), and not NAF (non-appropriated fund) employees.
Brenda Spencer-Ragland, MWR director, has worked with Jansen-Rees the past 16 years. She described her as a transactional leader, and a phenomenal analytic thinker.
"She knows when she can provide the team room to be creative, but she also knows when she must bring them in closer and provide more guidance. She is very caring and supportive as a leader, Spencer-Ragland said.
"She has incredible functional knowledge, and her analytical skills are at the top of her peer group. She is recognized as someone who truly can take a complex issue, pull the facts together and work an action plan that gets to the outcome desired.
"I am excited to see her excel as a leader as well. She certainly has those skills and abilities, and she has demonstrated them effectively, but now she gets to move to a much broader scope of leadership -- multiple programs."
The mission of ACS is to help service members and their families with real-life solutions for successful Army living, Jansen-Rees said.
ACS is absolutely essential in promoting resiliency and readiness, and through effective implementation of its programs promotes recruitment and retention in the total Army force, Spencer-Ragland said.
ACS's many programs and responsibilities include: the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), Financial Readiness Pro-gram, Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP), Army Emergency Relief (AER), Financial Readiness Program, Army Family Team Building, Survivor Outreach Services (SOS), Volunteer Program, Employment Readiness, and New Parent Support.
Many of its core programs, such as the Relocation Readiness Program have subprograms. The Lending Closet, Culture Connection, Hearts Apart, PCS briefs, newcomer orientations, and sponsorship training, are all under the Relocation Readiness Program.
In 2017 under Mills, ACS staff members answered over 64,000 questions, provided service materials to almost 84,000 people, and conducted nearly 3,000 consultations, according to an FMWR fact sheet. The staff also taught 1,420 classes to more than 53,000 people. Its Financial Readiness section provided over $64,000 in food vouchers, and its AER programs disbursed over $700,000 in loans and grants.
"Truly a lot of work is being done by this small, but mighty staff," Jansen-Rees said. "I'm blessed with a very creative staff of dedicated professionals who have the best interest of their clients at heart.
"We all sort of consider ourselves more experienced versions of the people who we serve," she continued. "We're all retiree spouses, veterans, we have some wounded warriors, we have some survivors (Gold Star families) on staff.
"We look at all of the people who come in (to ACS) as just needing the experience and insight and knowledge that we already have," she said. The staff has done really well despite the Army operating in an austere fiscal environment.
Jansen-Rees praised Mills.
"Miss Jean was one of the kindest people and funniest people who took a leadership role at this installation," she said. "I would like to be known as that as well, so big shoes to fill."
Jansen-Rees said she shared her top five priorities with her staff this week. One priority is the physical work environment in ACS, which is in Bldg. 4700.
"We're in cubicles providing social services, which isn't the best (because of privacy)," she said. "I'll work with the building manger to get a little bit taller cubicles, and to setup a few more client privacy offices."
Updating technology is another priority.
"I want to make sure we're using technology to the best interest of our clients," she said. "So many of our clients are tech savvy, so we need to get up-to-date on what (resource) apps we could be recommending to our clients."
Collaboration with other entities that provide social services is also a priority.
This includes on post services, such as Corvias Military Living, the USO, and Reynolds Army Health Clinic, as well as their counterparts off the installation, she said.
"Eighty percent of our service members and families live off post," Jansen-Rees said. "There are a lot of social service agencies downtown that we really need to get a little better connected with.
"We do a lot of referrals back and forth, but I don't know that we get together often enough to discuss things that are important to our community, like health and fitness," she said.
Jansen-Rees majored in social work at Indiana University at Bloomington. For her graduate work she studied at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis.
"I got an advanced standing in my master's program which means they cut out a semester, and I was able to complete it in 18 months rather than two full years," she said.
After graduating in 1986, Jansen-Rees said she spent one year looking for the social work job she wanted. For income she held three jobs: teaching preschool gym at a private school, and teaching dance (tap, jazz, ballet, preschool, and pointe) at two studios.
Jansen-Rees then received a call from one of her former supervisors at the Richard L. Roundebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Indianapolis. She had performed her clinical rotations there during her last semester of school. The supervisor let her know about a social worker position opening at the medical center.
Jansen-Rees said she wanted to work with veterans and for the VA. "I like being connected with a values-based organization. I like being able to do social work with folks who hold a similar set of values."
She said she was hired as a GS-9/11 social worker for the oncology, and pulmonary wards, as well as the cardiac step-down unit. "I think there were 26 social workers on staff."
She would spend five years at the medical center. It was in Indianapolis that she would meet her future husband, then-Sgt. Jim Rees, who was attending an Army recruiting school at Fort Benjamin Harrison. She said she didn't meet the sergeant through work, but just in town.
Jansen-Rees' first duty station as an Army wife was in in the Wilkes-Barre and Scranton area of Pennsylvania. The Army had a hometown recruiting program that stationed recruiters in areas where they came. Her husband was from nearby Pittstown.
They would spend three years in Pennsylvania, where Jansen-Rees worked as an HIV/AIDS case manager, then later as director of the Wyoming Valley AIDS Council, a nonprofit prevention agency.
Next came Germany from 1993 to 96, in the Kitzingen, Wuerzburg and Giebelstadt areas. Jim returned to his military occupational specialty light-wheeled vehicle mechanic and worked as a motor pool sergeant for 4th Battalion, 3rd Air Defense Artillery, which is now at Fort Sill.
Jansen-Rees was hired as an Army EFMP manager. She described the job as fun.
"I had wonderful families there," she said. "I created a database, so I could communicate with them regularly about their needs, and catered to what they were interested in."
After Germany, the couple arrived at Fort Sill, where Jansen-Rees said she began her homestead. After her husband received orders to Korea, Jansen-Rees remained here.
That was before Skype, Jansen-Rees said, explaining the technology of the day.
"I can remember an eyeball camera on top of his (Jim's) computer," she said. "Honey, pan your camera outside your apartment, I want to see what Seoul looks like."
Jim returned here for subsequent assignments, including with III Corps artillery. He retired at Fort Sill in 2005, as a master sergeant, and now works at the Logistics Readiness Center here.
How did she like the military lifestyle?
"I loved it," Jansen-Rees said. "I found out that when I moved from Indiana to Pennsylvania, that every place where you go is what you make of it. If you're sitting in the house and you're unhappy, then you need to change that."
Jansen-Rees said one of the hardest things she experienced in the military lifestyle was leaving a duty station.
"When it came time to go to Germany, I didn't want to leave Pennsylvania. When it was time to leave Germany, I didn't want to leave ... Now I can't imagine leaving here."