By Jim Hughes, Fort Rucker Public AffairsApril 25, 2019
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- While cutting kudzu with a sling blade in the sweltering Alabama heat in 1968 as a summer hire on Fort Rucker, a Samson teenager set a goal for himself -- he wanted to be the director of public works on post.
After graduating Samson High School in 1970 and Auburn University in 1974 as a distinguished military graduate, and then serving his country for 28 years in the Army, Ed Janasky accomplished that lifetime goal when, as a colonel, he spent his final assignment as a Soldier serving as Fort Rucker's director of engineering and logistics from 2002-04.
Upon retirement from the Army, Janasky hung up his uniform and transitioned directly into the director of public works position as an Army civilian, a position he held from 2004 until his upcoming retirement April 30.
While the shedding of the logistics mission was a big, albeit welcome, change, his moving from greens to civvies proved not such a big transition, he said.
"It was the same focus, really," Janasky said. "It really helped me in my transition because I was still able to support Soldiers and families. Even though I'd retired, I was able to make a difference for the Soldiers, families, civilians and contractors that work at Fort Rucker. That was a big plus -- I didn't have to go cold turkey and quit this and go do something else."
Fort Rucker has been a mainstay in Janasky's life, dating back even before that summer cutting kudzu and grass across the post.
"My dad was in the military, and he passed away when I was 7," he said. "But we had ID cards, so we'd come to Rucker to go to the commissary, the PX (post exchange) and the hospital."
But he really got to know the post by cutting the grass that summer. "All grass cutting was done in house -- there were no contracts, then," he said, adding that Army civilians and the summer hires teamed up to keep the grass at bay. "It was a great job for me, that summer. I got to know Fort Rucker very well because we got to travel all over the place -- I knew where all graveyards the were."
Besides his knowing where, literally, the bodies are buried on post, it'd be hard to find someone who knows more about Fort Rucker and its facilities because the Army, in between his summer hire days and taking over the DPW mission in 2002, sent him back to Fort Rucker from 1979-82 and again from 1987-90 with the 46th Engineering Battalion.
Janasky needed that knowledge, and more, to meet the myriad of challenges he would face when taking over the DPW mission.
"DPW was in the midst of a divorce when I got here," he said. "We'd gone from an in-house workforce to an outsourced one, based off contractors. We were reducing the number of people we had significantly. There were some upset people because they felt their jobs were threatened, but we were able, working as a team, to transition over and figure out, 'OK what is our job now?'
"Other than that hammer sitting over there," he said, gesturing towards a hammer sitting on a cabinet in his office, "I don't know if we have a hammer or screwdriver in DPW, because we manage contracts now. We used to do the work in house -- that change had just taken place and there was a lot of tension.
"We were able to work through the issues and get to the point where we were able to continue to provide value added to the installation support tier as a team -- all together," Janasky added. "That's probably by far the most important thing that I can see as an accomplishment -- I had some good people, some good division chiefs, and we've been able to work together to solve problems. We had some people take early retirements, going home, and some of them converted over and stayed on to work here. But instead of working in shops, they ended up overseeing the contracts to make sure the work was done correctly. We have 60 positions now -- we had hundreds before. It changes how you do business."
But his biggest challenge is one the Army has faced since its creation in 1775.
"The habit to adjust for the fact that resources continually go down while requirements seem to continually go up, so you have to balance that," he said. "It's probably one of the greatest challenges there is -- to have to balance out my workforce so no one is RIF'd (reduction in force). At one point, I had 15 overhires working for me. Today, I have none. No one was RIF'd and we didn't have to send anyone home. We worked and adjusted to get people into positions where they can still be value added. That was a challenge."
While the list of Janasky's accomplishments as the director of DPW and an explanation of his impact at Fort Rucker and beyond could fill volumes, he feels it's more about people.
"As I look back, I'm most proud of the people I've had the opportunity to work with," he said. "The great thing is the stability of my division chiefs -- we have six divisions here. We've got a very experienced team. Their experience has been the difference between a good job and a great job. They manage their people, they appreciate their people and don't take them for granted, and they've been able to work together as a team to identify the best way to solve particular issues that come up within the regulations."
And that feeling is a two-way street, as at his going away luncheon April 23, there was some talk about Janasky's impact on every facility on Fort Rucker and even other Army programs, but the main focus of all the speakers was his personal and professional impact on them.
Perhaps retired Lt. Col. Tewanna Marks, who worked for Janasky as the deputy director of public works a few years ago, summed it up best at the luncheon when she read what she had inscribed on a plaque she got him.
"Ordinary employees, like me, become extraordinary when they are trained by awesome bosses, like you," she said.
While the kind words and sentiments at his luncheon were music to his ears, Janasky said it is time to flip the page and begin a new chapter in his life -- and he'll have plenty to keep him busy.
"I've got other things I need to do with my family -- I have 13 grandkids and they want to go fishing, they want me to eat lunch with them at school," he said. "Some are in Miami, some are in Georgia and some are here.
"Fort Rucker is a great place to work, a great place to visit or play, my job's fantastic, my people are great -- it's none of that. It's just time to move on to another stage of my life. I'll do some yardwork and gardening, some honeydos for my wife, and all three of my daughters have lists -- 'Come spend a week with us, dad!'"
And it's a sweet ending, he added.
"I'm very happy with it," he said, adding that he plans to continue to reside in the area in Samson. "I've had a great run. I love Fort Rucker. It's been a great part of my life. I'll be back over to visit, and come back to do different things. I've been blessed in many, many ways. I really have no regrets."