Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Chief of Staff Patrick MacKenzie reflects on time at garrison ahead of retirement.
Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Chief of Staff Patrick MacKenzie reflects on time at garrison ahead of retirement. (Photo Credit: Rachel Deloach) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. -- When Patrick MacKenzie accepted the job as chief of staff at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall February 2021 the installation was in a state of transition. Over half of the workforce was teleworking due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a new commander was taking command in May.

With 41 years of combined military and garrison leadership experience under his belt, MacKenzie was the perfect fit for the job. Before JBM-HH, MacKenzie’s last assignment was at Fort Lee, Virginia serving as the deputy garrison commander.

Jumping on the opportunity to move closer to his home and serve on one of two Army-supported joint bases, MacKenzie transferred to JBM-HH. He immediately learned the battle rhythms, unique missions and key players.

“Whenever you take over a garrison, you are evaluating the current processes, understanding what a garrison’s mission is, and making sure you’ve established and refined the battle rhythms to ensure the garrison is functioning as it should,” said MacKenzie. “The way I run a garrison is to get everything in place first and then integrate a new commander.”

Part of MacKenzie’s mission when he arrived at JBM-HH was to build the team and recruit key vacant manager positions in each directorate.

“After filling critical vacancies, we started the process of integrating our new JBM-HH commander,” said MacKenzie. “Most commanders who take command of a garrison have no experience in leading a garrison, which was the case with Col. (David) Bowling.”

Once Bowling took command in May 2021, MacKenzie provided the continuity to help transition and integrate him on the elements of a garrison organization to include resource management, human resources, infrastructure, and emergency services.

“The first year command is critical for a new garrison commander and my role is to help him navigate through the complex environment of installation management,” said MacKenzie.

“We have been in a COVID-19 environment between HPCON Bravo and HPCON Charlie for the past two years," said MacKenzie. "Because the commander used caution with the Omicron variant surge, we were able to transition back to HPCON C with minimal impact.”

During HPCON C, the JBM-HH Child Development Centers could only offer services to mission essential personnel. Regardless of the reduced services and capabilities, the mission continued.

“There is always a crisis when you are managing a city, but you can’t stop running a city because of COVID-19, and in the same way you don’t stop running an installation because of COVID-19, so you have to adjust,” said MacKenzie.

One of the ways the installation adjusted was through maximum telework. MacKenzie said when he arrived at JBM-HH he experienced very quickly the full effect of teleworking. While the self-proclaimed old school manager said he needed to see his workforce to understand what and how they were doing, he understood that telework was a necessity and that Microsoft Teams provided the capability to continue critical garrison operations.

“I never had problems with the teleworking aspect because technology has improved so much,” said MacKenzie. “By the time I got here last February the workforce had adjusted, and then it was in the hands of good management keeping their teams accountable and motivated.”

MacKenzie said if he were not retiring he would move toward a hybrid balance to mimic current trends with corporate America.

“A hybrid combination of telework and in person for those non-front door services are an ideal scenario because that means less traffic on the road, less utility usage and a happier workforce with a work-life balance,” said MacKenzie.

While MacKenzie said every assignment has been unique, Fort Myer has been remarkable due to its operation tempo and complexities.

“The things I like about Fort Myer are the history and the mission set, but mostly the people,” said MacKenzie. “We have a very knowledgeable, seasoned and dedicated staff here at JBM-HH.”

MacKenzie said his advice to the incoming chief of staff would be to develop relationships with the team and build a cohesive group.

“A good leader will take the time to learn how this team operates and the nuances that are uniquely Fort Myer,” MacKenzie said.