Fort Rucker emergency services personnel respond to a simulated active shooter scenario at the primary school on post during a force protection exercise in July. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Installation Management Command announced Jan. 28 that the Fort Rucker Directorate of Public Safety is the best organization of its type in the Army.

Col. Whitney B. Gardner, Fort Rucker garrison commander, broke the news to the community shortly after Lt. Gen. Douglas M. Gabram, IMCOM commanding general, issued his State of IMCOM address to garrison leadership across the Army where he announced the inaugural winner of the Sgt. Maj. Wardell B. Turner Award.

“This is tremendous news for an outstanding organization that is a critical part of our great Fort Rucker team,” Gardner said. “We see firsthand what this amazing team of law enforcement, security, and fire protection and emergency services personnel do for us every day at Fort Rucker, and it’s great to see the Army recognize them for what they truly are – the best in the business. We’re going to win this award many times in the future, but we’ll always have the distinction of being the first to earn it.”

The colonel added that this award is something the entire Wiregrass community can take pride in.

“We have close relationships and work really well with all of the surrounding law enforcement, fire protection and emergency services in this area,” he said. “Without those relationships, constant coordination and working so well together, we couldn’t do what we do at Fort Rucker.”

The new IMCOM award was established to recognize the best directorate of emergency services program within the Army and also recognize excellence in support of the installation law enforcement, physical security, and fire and emergency services mission, according to Lt. Col. Phillip R. Lenz, director of Fort Rucker DPS. Fort Rucker uses the name directorate of public safety for its version of DES because the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence has a directorate of evaluations and standardization.

“Winning this inaugural award is a testament to the dedication and professionalism of the entire [DPS] team here at Fort Rucker in support of the garrison and USAACE missions,” Lenz said. “Oftentimes, with award competitions like this, it is usually the larger installations that win, based on the higher level of operational tempo of all three critical DPS functions. So, having a smaller installation team like ours win is an incredible accomplishment. There is no doubt that we are ‘Above the Best.’”

Lenz offered up a number of reasons he feels Fort Rucker DPS is the best in the business.

“Our success comes down to every individual on our team doing their job to the highest standards and taking pride in their mission, and simple engaged leadership at every level,” he said. “Every leader in this organization is skilled in their craft, understands their personnel and knows how to take care of our greatest asset – our people.”

The unit’s support of the USAACE flight training mission is another keystone to DPS’ success, the director added.

“I think a key component of our success with this award was an excellent job of selling our role in support of the unique USAACE flight training mission, where it centers on the essential functions of physical security, law enforcement, airfield security and, of course, standard firefighting,” Lenz said. “What most people don’t realize is that Fort Rucker has the largest fire department in the Army – we support 21 separate and geographically dispersed airfields spread throughout lower Alabama with the critical aircraft rescue firefighting mission.”

Also, despite the challenges that arose with COVID-19, DPS focused its training on response to the threat of an active shooter on the installation. “DPS has been very aggressive in working with the various tenant organizations to conduct assessments and develop an intensive training program that ensures every first responder understands their role in response to an active shooter. At the same time, we ensure that we, as the organizational leadership team, understand the bigger picture and how to effectively coordinate a quick and efficient response,” he added.

Lenz also praised leadership within and above the directorate.

“I truly feel that it comes down to exceptional leadership and people being invested in the mission,” he said. “I have been truly blessed with all of my leaders, and like any good sports team, leadership and mastery of your position makes the difference between winning and losing.

“We are truly fortunate to have command teams at both the garrison and USAACE level who understand our mission, and have the utmost faith and confidence in us to execute that mission while always being there to support ways to improve the security and safety posture of the installation,” Lenz added. “In addition to this being a major accomplishment for the DPS, this is truly an installation accomplishment. We couldn’t accomplish our mission without all of the garrison directors and USAACE staff, and because of those positive relationships and support, it has made us and the installation safer and more secure.”

Marcel J. Dumais, DPS chief of police, agreed with Lenz’ assessment of the outstanding leadership within and beyond the organization.

“It truly is what makes this organization tick,” Dumais said. “Our leaders have inculcated discipline and professionalism in all of our employees – they understand the mission and fully support our efforts to deliver premiere law enforcement and emergency dispatch services to the Fort Rucker community on a daily basis.”

The unit is also filled from top to bottom with dedicated professionals who care, according to Sgt. Maj. Jesus H. Goytia, DPS sergeant major.

“In each part of this team, our Soldiers and civilians come to work every day to bring their best to the community,” Goytia said.  “As a team, we care about the safety, health and welfare of every Soldier, civilian and family member who works or resides on our installation. Also, with many retired or former Fort Rucker Soldiers working within the directorate, it shows how much of a family approach we bring to the mission, which only improves the bond of the team and the output to the Fort Rucker community.

“Additionally, DPS welcomes and appreciates the relationship with the 1st Aviation Brigade and the 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment who provide the Soldier power delivered by the 6th Military Police Detachment,” the sergeant major added.

Earning the Army-wide honors was welcome news to the men and women of Fort Rucker DPS, according to Lonny R. Keen, Fort Rucker fire chief, and John W. Tkac, chief of the physical security division.

“While this is truly a team DPS achievement, we could not have won this award without the dedicated team of security professionals I’m grateful to have working with me,” Tkac said of the Army security guards and physical security specialists in his division. “They are the ones who help make DPS shine, while also protecting the Fort Rucker community.”

Keen was complimentary of the fire and emergency services’ part in winning the award.

“I am extremely proud of the members of the Fort Rucker Fire Department and their everyday efforts to help protect Fort Rucker and the surrounding communities,” he said. “It is an honor to be recognized for this award as a part of the overall DPS Team.”

The deputy director of DPS, Marcus McDougald, said he’s known since he began working for the unit in 2003 that he’s a part of something special.

“I am truly blessed to know and work with our current Soldiers and civilians, along with the many others who have since left, and I am immensely proud of their accomplishments both past and present,” he said.

“While you’re relaxing at night, on the weekend or a holiday with your family and friends, think about those true professionals, both the Soldiers and Department of the Army Civilians in the Directorate of Public Safety – security officers and firefighters out there day and night, seven days a week, 365 days a year – who are dedicated to serving and protecting this installation and its critical assets, but most importantly, you and your family while they are away from theirs,” McDougald said.

When and how the award will be officially presented has yet to be determined.