JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – Paul Burk, IMCOM’s G9 Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Director, retired Tuesday after more than 40 years of distinguished service.
During a ceremony Jan. 17 at the Fort Sam Houston Theater, Burk reflected on a remarkable FMWR journey that began as a janitor at the Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Twin Oaks Bowling Center in 1982 to forging a legacy of quality programs and services provided by Army FMWR that take care of Soldiers and their Families.
“I’ve loved every minute I served Army FMWR,” said Burk, whose father was an Army Command Sergeant Major stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, before moving the family to Oklahoma. “It has been a wonderful honor at IMCOM to work with caring, dedicated professionals who serve our Soldiers and Families, and I will miss it.”
That sentiment was shared by Lt. Gen. Omar Jones, IMCOM Commanding General, who praised Burk’s engaged and caring leadership.
“It will be your impact on people we will miss the most,” Jones said. “There is absolutely no doubt you have left FMWR, IMCOM, Army Materiel Command and the Army itself in better shape than you found them. Exponentially so, in fact. You will always be an IMCOM professional of the highest order, and your name will be spoken in these hallways for years to come.”
Burk learned the importance of putting people first during his job at Fort Sill while attending college at the University of Oklahoma. He had supportive, nurturing leaders who accommodated his academic schedule and showed him the positive effects of investing in their team.
After graduating with a degree in Management Information Systems, Fort Sill hired Burk as an accountant at its central accounting office. When all accounting services were centralized to DFAS, Burk became what he calls simply, “an IT guy.” Fort Sill was declared a model installation for IT in 1992 after Burk and his team implemented new enterprise information systems.
Burk’s leadership qualities were noticed by Phil Sackowitz, then the Training and Doctrine Command’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Base Operating Services who later became IMCOM’s first Executive Deputy to the Commanding General.
“From the first time I met him, I knew Paul was destined to lead,” Sackowitz said. “His thirst for knowledge, his leadership, and his passion for helping Soldiers, Civilians and Families drove him to make the right recommendations and decisions at the right times.”
Burk’s leadership and technical skills got him noticed again in 1998. As the “IT guy” for the Northeast Region of the Installation Management Agency – IMCOM’s predecessor – he and his team introduced the Army FMWR Government Purchase Card Program. Burk established much-needed controls and oversight to ensure accountability, save money and reduce risk to the Army while billions of dollars in transactions helped obtain equipment and services to take care of Soldiers, Civilians and Families.
Those efforts earned Burk the White Plume, the Army’s highest award in FMWR programs, and he became the Director of Financial Management for Headquarters FMWRC, Washington, D.C in 2009. He then moved to Fort Sam Houston as part of a restructuring action that saw FMWRC become IMCOM G9.
Burk’s experience, leadership and business acumen led him to being promoted to Deputy Director of IMCOM G9 in 2017 and in 2019 was promoted by Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Kenneth R. Dahl to become the Director of G9.
“Paul was the perfect civilian professional to lead IMCOM G9, not only because of his lifelong experience, but also because of his strong reputation throughout the Army,” Dahl said. “When the director position opened, he was a natural fit, and he immediately gained the support and loyalty of the entire FMWR community.”
The early stages of the coronavirus pandemic tested Mr. Burk’s resolve, but his acumen, creativity and intellect prevented layoffs within FMWR despite losing more than $1 million daily. Burk and the G9 team incorporated video conferencing software in Microsoft Teams to conduct monthly town halls to both internal and external IDs and garrisons, to keep the lines of communication open and routinely checked on teammates’ health and well-being.
Most importantly, Burk and the Child and Youth Services team quickly grasped the importance of continuing to provide quality child care so Soldiers could perform their essential duties. And as COVID conditions continued to subside, he implemented the “FMWR Strategy,” a plan to overcome FMWR’s lack of revenue and bring it back to full operational capability.
“Paul is the real deal,” said Josh Gwinn, G9 acting director who served as Burk’s deputy director. “His people love him because they trust him. And they trust him because he’s walked a mile in their shoes.”