By Suet Lee-GrowneyMarch 8, 2018
FORT SILL, Okla., March 8, 2018 -- Despite the transitory nature of the military, the name Glen Wampler is synonymous to nature, wildlife and hunting at Fort Sill. Wampler has worked on the installation doing what he loves most for the last 29 years.
By profession, Wampler is a biologist. He cares for acres of nature and wildlife of the Fort Sill outdoors as well as his staff. Currently, Wampler is the administrator of Natural Resources Branch-Environmental Quality Division, Directorate of Public Works. He has been with program since 1989, but that was not his first start at Fort Sill.
Wampler was no stranger to the outdoors. He spent his younger years ranching and hunting in a town outside Fort Hood, Texas, called Copperas Cove.
"I grew up on a ranch most of my youth," Wampler said. "Whenever I got to college, like so many up and coming young people, I had no idea what I wanted to do. So after the first year, I decided on (being a biologist); and yes, I've been happy with it ever since.
"I spent a lot of the time either ranching or fishing and hunting and things like that. So that's what I enjoy doing. So if I could find a job that let me do what I enjoy doing, that sounded like a good idea."
Armed with a master's degree in wildlife management from Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, Wampler's first gig out of school was at Fort Sill.
"Fresh out of college, I came to Fort Sill on a two-year research project dealing with movements of deer between the (Wichita Mountains Wildlife) Refuge and Fort Sill," he said.
After his short stint in Oklahoma ended, he moved back to Texas for a few years working in the same field. He got a job in wildlife and range animal nutrition in Uvalde for Texas A&M University and then, he said, took an unusual job at a company called Texas Wild Game Co-op.
"They harvest exotic animals that are raised on ranches in Texas to sell the meat to restaurants all across the nation like axis (deer), eland (antelope), and blackbuck (antelope)," he said. "I did that for two years and then I came (back) to Fort Sill."
PASSION FOR THE OUTDOORS
Wampler was 35 years old when he returned to Fort Sill, and will have worked here for 29 years in October. In his almost three decades here, he's seen many changes in the organization and staffing. But the thing that keeps his passion for his job alive is sharing his love for the outdoors with people around him and watching them grow, especially the youths.
"What I probably like the best is, let me think, we've had some of these youth programs going on for a long time and so," he said, and then pause for a few seconds as he shifted his focus on the creek by Medicine Bluffs. He was silent for a while as he struggled to find the right words to say about what was the most rewarding part of his job.
"When a kid comes up and gives you a hug, but then you realized the kid is 20-something years old and they've grown up and you've watched all those stages and you realized they're still involved and they're still having fun and they enjoy it -- I appreciate it."
Toni Hodgkins used to work under Wampler as a biological technician. They met when he was hired in 1989 and worked together until she retired in 2011. She said Wampler's enthusiasm is what drives him and keeps the natural resources branch going.
"It's his love for the outdoors and wanting other people to enjoy and and participate in outdoor activities," Hodgkins said. "He has basically kept (the natural resources branch) going, which is pretty impressive. Fort Sill is probably one of the last, as far as fish and wildlife goes. It's ran different in a lot of other posts; and he's kept it going in a way that I think is more personable or user-friendly to the customers themselves."
ON THE JOB
Although Wampler's children did not follow his footsteps to be a biologist, he said, they do enjoy hunting and fishing.
"Neither of them are into the biology part," he said. "And it's all the lifestyle and stuff; you do spend a lot of time out because you have to be here late to work with hunters."
Because of the long hours, the staff he works with is like a family to him.
"It has to be that way because you spend so much time with them," he said. "They're very close. Worst part about being here for 29 years is that the people that I worked with are all gone. So there's been a complete turnover, but it's been with good people."
Under the natural resources branch, Wampler manages two sections, the fish and wildlife office and the range management and education office. He said because they have a small staff, the people under the branch work interchangeably in those two sections.
Having confidence in his staff is one of his main work philosophies.
"My work philosophy is to recruit people -- and this is hard to do in the government -- but recruit people who know what they're doing and then let them do it, rather than looking over their shoulder all the time and I've been very lucky in that respect," he said. "It's a whole lot easier to do that, to find people who know what they're doing, put them in a position, and try to give the the resources so they can get the job done."
Throughout his career here, much has been achieved, but Wampler credits his staff for all those milestones. One of those successes is working with the state of Oklahoma to increase the elk population of post.
"It is very much of a team effort thing," he said. "One of the things that has been good is that our hunting seasons have gotten better. Instead of having a great harvest one year and bad the next year, we've leveled that out at a higher level where the elk hunting on Fort Sill has gone from something like they killed an elk or two every few years, to where this last year we took 62 elk off post, probably very little of that has to do with me."
In the last decade, Wampler has also pushed hard to maintain and grow the youth outdoors programs. When he came on board in 1989, there was a fishing derby for the youths, but he has multiplied the activities to spring turkey and waterfowl hunts.
"We've really worked hard on trying to educate our youth, that way they know more about hunting, kind of carrying on the thing from one generation to another," he said. "Don't get me wrong, I probably didn't have a whole lot to do with those. They are the people who work for me are the ones who get really interested in this and really push it and really-make-it-happen type deals."
Apart from Wampler's humility, Hodgkins said his geniality and personable attitude made the 20-plus years of working with him great.
"He's just all-around generally a very good man," she said. "He's got a great sense of humor; he's always willing to help other people, that's always something that always sticks out in my mind. No matter what the occasion is, he's always willing to help other people no matter if he's busy or whatever, he'll stop what he's doing and help other folks."