By Aimee MaloneMarch 19, 2019
During her first eight months on post, Lt. Col. Sheila Coker, garrison deputy commander at Fort McCoy, said it's been a privilege to work with the Fort McCoy community, including the civilian workforce, tenant organizations, and family members.
"The workforce is passionate about what they do, and they're passionate about Fort McCoy," Coker said.
"They don't necessarily look at this as just coming to a job every day. They're committed to moving Fort McCoy forward, and they're completely committed to serving our Soldiers and families."
Fort McCoy is different from most posts she's held, Coker said. Most organizations she's worked at had much smaller civilian staffs, and she said she thinks Fort McCoy has a unique advantage in its makeup.
"The continuity of our civilian workforce is an advantage, as well as having people from this area who are dedicated to Fort McCoy," Coker said. "I think that is demonstrated in our post because we do have such a great group of professionals.
"They're here because they choose to be here," she said. "It's not just about a job. Our civilian personnel are not placed here by someone else, and they can certainly get jobs elsewhere. They are here because they want to contribute to and be a part of something ... that's bigger than themselves, and they want to be here at Fort McCoy."
Coker said Fort McCoy is also unusual among military organizations in its forward-thinking attitude.
"I've never been in an organization with such a comprehensive five-year strategic business plan," she said. "Our team is not solely focused on the 50-meter target but truly looking forward and asking, 'What should Fort McCoy look like (in the future)?'"
The strategic business plan helps Fort McCoy position itself for the future instead of simply focusing on short-term goals, and considers how we contribute to our national defense, Coker said. She said she's confident that the Fort McCoy Team will continue to succeed in our endeavors, and even exceed its goals in the future.
"Because we have this plan, and because we have such great professionals doing the work, we're going to achieve those goals," Coker said. "And once these goals are met, we will reassess those goals, set new ones, and continue pressing forward even further than what we now envision."
Coker has family ties to Wisconsin.
"My great-grandparents were Germans who emigrated from Russia in 1911 to Boston and then moved to Canada, where my grandpa was born. He and his family immigrated to Wisconsin where he met my grandmother, also of German decent, who was actually born right here in Wisconsin."
Coker said her family has had the biggest influence on her throughout her life. Her family, especially her mother, husband, and daughter, has helped her reach the point she's at today, which she said, having enlisted as a private, is much further than she ever expected.
"My mother raised my older brother, sister, and me as a single parent since I was 8. Like her hard-working mother, our mom worked in a factory for 20 years until the plant where she worked moved out of the country. She showed us what it means to work hard, to be dedicated to your employer and boss - show up every day on time, put in the hours you're being paid for, and work to earn your pay," Coker said.
Her daughter and husband are also major influences in her life, both at home and in her career.
"I joke that the Army issued me my husband - he's just amazing. He has sacrificed so much for me, not the least of which was retiring from the Army during a very high point in his career so he could support me while I pursued mine," she said. "He has selflessly loved and supported our family through the best times and the worst, and he continues to do so daily. He leads us spiritually in our Christian faith, and helps me keep my life priorities in order.
"Our daughter has also been an enormous influence to me simply through her genuinely kind, light-hearted, and loving nature. She makes me strive to be better - a better wife, a better mom, a better person - so I can be a positive example to her. In the way she influences me, I want to influence her to dream big and always do her very best," Coker said.
Coker said it is important for leaders to self-reflect.
"(I believe) great leaders continually make time to self-reflect and assess their actions or inactions. In speaking with a senior NCO recently, I was so impressed by her words and positive attitude," she said.
"When not selected for something that she was considered for, this fantastic NCO did not complain, point fingers, or claim that the Army 'got it wrong,' but instead self-reflected on what she can do to be a better NCO and, as a result, more competitive in the future. That, to me, is wisdom, and a clear indicator of a great leader."