Under Secretary of Army McPherson tours schools, housing renovation site

By CourtesyOctober 14, 2020

Advanced individual training student Pvt. Xavier Sullivan-Dixon explains the workings of a water treatment system to The Honorable James McPherson, Undersecretary of the Army, during the Undersecretary’s visit to the Quartermaster School’s Petroleum and Water Department. Sullivan-Dixon and two of his fellow students walked the undersecretary through a virtual training program now being used by the schoolhouse.
1 / 7 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Advanced individual training student Pvt. Xavier Sullivan-Dixon explains the workings of a water treatment system to The Honorable James McPherson, Undersecretary of the Army, during the Undersecretary’s visit to the Quartermaster School’s Petroleum and Water Department. Sullivan-Dixon and two of his fellow students walked the undersecretary through a virtual training program now being used by the schoolhouse. (Photo Credit: Terrance Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL
Command Sgt. Maj. Jorge Escobedo, CASCOM CSM, listens as The Honorable James McPherson, Under Secretary of the Army, converses with troops at the Samuel Sharpe Dining Facility Oct. 8. The DFAC was one of several facilities the Under Secretary visited during his tour here.
2 / 7 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Command Sgt. Maj. Jorge Escobedo, CASCOM CSM, listens as The Honorable James McPherson, Under Secretary of the Army, converses with troops at the Samuel Sharpe Dining Facility Oct. 8. The DFAC was one of several facilities the Under Secretary visited during his tour here. (Photo Credit: Terrance Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL
The Honorable James McPherson, Under Secretary of the Army, speaks to reporters and others at a press conference outside a recently-renovated residence in the Jackson Circle neighborhood of Fort lee Oct. 7. The Under Secretary highlighted Army efforts to improve housing for troops in light of issues stemming from contract housing within the past year. Standing in the background are Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general; Patrick L. Mackenzie, deputy to the commander, U.S. Army Garrison; and Albert G. Williams, chief, Housing.
3 / 7 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Honorable James McPherson, Under Secretary of the Army, speaks to reporters and others at a press conference outside a recently-renovated residence in the Jackson Circle neighborhood of Fort lee Oct. 7. The Under Secretary highlighted Army efforts to improve housing for troops in light of issues stemming from contract housing within the past year. Standing in the background are Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general; Patrick L. Mackenzie, deputy to the commander, U.S. Army Garrison; and Albert G. Williams, chief, Housing. (Photo Credit: Terrance Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL
The Honorable James McPherson, Under Secretary of the Army, watches as Quartermaster School advanced individual training Soldiers toss practice grenades near Training Area 23 Oct. 7. The Under Secretary’s itinerary included touring training facilities, talking with troops and visiting recently-renovated housing.
4 / 7 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Honorable James McPherson, Under Secretary of the Army, watches as Quartermaster School advanced individual training Soldiers toss practice grenades near Training Area 23 Oct. 7. The Under Secretary’s itinerary included touring training facilities, talking with troops and visiting recently-renovated housing. (Photo Credit: Terrance Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL
The Honorable James McPherson, Under Secretary of the Army, presents a coin to Sgt. 1st Class Dedric Daniels, an instructor, during his visit to the Ordnance School Oct. 7. McPherson visited several training facilities and talked with leaders and Soldiers during a daylong visit to the installation.
5 / 7 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Honorable James McPherson, Under Secretary of the Army, presents a coin to Sgt. 1st Class Dedric Daniels, an instructor, during his visit to the Ordnance School Oct. 7. McPherson visited several training facilities and talked with leaders and Soldiers during a daylong visit to the installation. (Photo Credit: Terrance Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL
Patrick L. MacKenzie, deputy to the garrison commander, right, explains the Jackson Circle housing renovation project to The Honorable James McPherson, Under Secretary of the Army, during a visit to the neighborhood Oct. 7.
6 / 7 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Patrick L. MacKenzie, deputy to the garrison commander, right, explains the Jackson Circle housing renovation project to The Honorable James McPherson, Under Secretary of the Army, during a visit to the neighborhood Oct. 7. (Photo Credit: Terrance Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL
Staff Sgt. Derrick Felch, Ordnance School instructor, explains Joint Light Tactical Vehicle controls to The Honorable Under Secretary of the Army James McPherson during the secretary’s Oct. 7 visit.
7 / 7 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Staff Sgt. Derrick Felch, Ordnance School instructor, explains Joint Light Tactical Vehicle controls to The Honorable Under Secretary of the Army James McPherson during the secretary’s Oct. 7 visit. (Photo Credit: Terrance Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEE, Va. (Oct. 13, 2020) -- The Army’s second-highest-ranking civilian spent a good part of his day here Oct. 7 touring training facilities, conversing with troops and spotlighting efforts to improve privatized military family housing.

Under Secretary of the Army James McPherson received a glimpse of quartermaster and ordnance training, lunched with students at the Samuel Sharpe Dining Facility and addressed members of the media outside a newly renovated residence in the Jackson Circle neighborhood.

Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command and Fort Lee commanding general, hosted the undersecretary and accompanied him throughout the tour.

McPherson’s first stop was the QM School’s Petroleum and Water Department. There, he met with administrators, instructors and students. He also received a familiarization on the latest virtual training systems said to save time and resources while improving technical skills.

Advanced individual training Soldiers Spc. Zoya Goodwin, Pvt. Xavier Sullivan-Dixon and Pvt. Paden Bear were among those who briefed the undersecretary, walking him through a virtual training session.

“We have a new breed coming into the force, and they gravitate toward technology,” pointed out PWD Director Jose Hernandez, who was present for the briefing and spoke highly of the professionalism and confidence demonstrated by his junior Soldiers. “This is what they like, and when you mesh what they like with the learning experience, the confidence level just goes up.”

McPherson spent roughly an hour at PWD and later presented Soldiers and leaders with coins. Hernandez said he was thrilled senior leaders are taking an interest in virtual learning programs at the school and is always glad to demonstrate how students are benefiting from it.

“I thought it was a great visit,” Hernandez said. “It was good to have someone from the Pentagon visit us and see how we’re revolutionizing the way we train Soldiers. I was extremely pleased to see our senior leaders involved, but more importantly, see our young professionals demonstrate what we’re capable of and what we’re doing.”

At the Samuel Sharpe DFAC, McPherson – a former Soldier himself – was accompanied by Command Sgt. Maj. Jorge Escobedo, CASCOM CSM. The two dined with AIT Soldiers, and McPherson casually conversed with them on such topics as leadership, training and quality of life.

The Jackson Circle neighborhood was next on the undersecretary’s itinerary. Fogg, Deputy to the Garrison Commander Patrick Mackenzie and Housing Chief Albert Williams showed off the interior of a renovated residence as a symbol of future plans to improve housing in the installation’s oldest neighborhood.

Afterward, McPherson addressed members of the press, government workers and contract employees on what the Army has done and is doing to rectify the issues with privatized housing that were well-vocalized last year.

“Essentially we gave (privatized housing companies) a ground lease of 50 years and handed over the houses for them to renovate, improve and replace as they saw fit,” McPherson said. “Unfortunately, at that time, the Army took a step back from housing. ‘It no longer belongs to us. It belongs to a private contractor.’ That was the wrong answer. It is our responsibility to provide for the health, safety and welfare of our Soldiers and their families and we shifted gears and are now doing just that. In the past two years, we’ve made tremendous strides.”

Those “tremendous strides” include accelerated efforts to renovate units and replace housing where needed.

“We have about 85,000 homes in the Army inventory,” McPherson noted, “and in the next five to eight years, we will either renovate or replace 90 percent of them. The oldest ones we’ll (deconstruct) … and build new ones.”

An example of current initiatives is the Jackson Circle neighborhood, located adjacent to the main installation, north of Route 36. As the undersecretary spoke on the front lawn of a residence, construction trucks roared by, and he made mention that it was the sound of progress.

Several neighborhood homes are currently being renovated and plans are underway to begin work on more.

Roughly half of the 1,500 homes at Fort Lee will be renovated or replaced within the coming years. The first phase of the project is estimated to cost $15.6 million.

In addition to the upgrades, the undersecretary said new work order processes have been put into place that will improve upon the resolution of maintenance needs and allow residents to rate their satisfaction with the work. Furthermore, those processes are now being monitored by command teams as a quality assurance measure.

McPherson rounded out his visit with a trip to the Ordnance Campus. At Cohen Hall, he toured the allied trades training areas as instructors demonstrated welding and machining practices as well as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

At the Munitions and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Department’s Rose Hall, the undersecretary was familiarized with EOD robots and toured a field training site. McPherson’s last stop was the always-popular virtual welder at the Track/Metal/Working/Service Recovery Training Department.

Under Secretary McPherson spent three years in the Army as an enlisted military policeman. He later attended law school, joined the Navy and eventually became the Judge Advocate General. He retired from the service in 2006.

McPherson became the 34th Under Secretary of the Army in March 2020.