More than 400 years of military service represented at latest ‘Coffee with the Commander’

By Eric KowalNovember 6, 2023

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - U.S. Army garrison Picatinny Arsenal officials invited military veterans, whether in an active-duty, Reserve, or now federal civilian status, to sit and speak with garrison command team leadership as part of this month’s Coffee with the Commander session on Nov. 2.
A combined 411 years of military service was represented by 25 veterans at the table, including Lt. Col. Alexander D. Burgos, Picatinny Arsenal garrison commander, his command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. David M. Franks, as well as acting deputy garrison commander, Fortunato Rubio Jr., and veterans of the garrison’s workforce.
Each of the branches of U.S. Armed Forces, including the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force, was represented by one or more veterans in the room.
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - U.S. Army garrison Picatinny Arsenal officials invited military veterans, whether in an active-duty, Reserve, or now federal civilian status, to sit and speak with garrison command team leadership as part of this month’s Coffee with the Commander session on Nov. 2.
A combined 411 years of military service was represented by 25 veterans at the table, including Lt. Col. Alexander D. Burgos, Picatinny Arsenal garrison commander, his command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. David M. Franks, as well as acting deputy garrison commander, Fortunato Rubio Jr., and veterans of the garrison’s workforce.
Each of the branches of U.S. Armed Forces, including the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force, was represented by one or more veterans in the room. (Photo Credit: Eric Kowal)
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PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - U.S. Army garrison Picatinny Arsenal officials invited military veterans, whether in an active-duty, Reserve, or now federal civilian status, to sit and speak with garrison command team leadership as part of this month’s Coffee with the Commander session on Nov. 2.

A combined 411 years of military service was represented by 25 veterans at the table, including Lt. Col. Alexander D. Burgos, Picatinny Arsenal garrison commander, his command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. David M. Franks, as well as deputy garrison commander, Fortunato Rubio Jr., who is also a retired U.S. Marine Corps sergeant major, and veterans of the garrison’s workforce.

Each of the branches of U.S. Armed Forces, including the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force, was represented by one or more veterans in the room.  The only service not represented was U.S. Space Force.

According to the latest command census, more than 60 percent of the garrison’s workforce served in the military, and now continue to support the nation through civilian federal service.

Veterans of various eras dating back to the Vietnam War gathered. Each briefly spoke about their service and deployments to areas such as Afghanistan, Australia, Haiti, Iraq, Panama, and other countries..

“We’ve been all over the world, even some places I have never even heard of,” said Franks. “Less than one percent of our nation’s population has served in the military and we are a part of that prestigious group.

“I love to wake up and put this uniform on,” Franks continued. “I feel like an Avenger. I love what I do, and I’m going to continue to do it. I still have a lot to give.”

The dialogue between the veterans and the command team allowed veterans to become familiar with one another, engage in camaraderie, and discuss any concerns they may have with leadership.

One concern was no one-stop shop that provides veterans with information of the many services or opportunities that may be available to them.

Jasmine Russell, a manpower and agreements analyst, and U.S. Army veteran, said that she continues to serve the veteran community after-hours.

After completing her working hours at the Picatinny Arsenal garrison, Russell spends her nights volunteering at a peer-support, and network-connection resource for veterans at nearby Rutgers University, called “Vets 4 Warriors.”

“I absolutely love working the call center because there are so many of us who are unaware of the veteran services and programs available to us, especially in the Post 9/11 era,” Russell said. “On top of that, many veterans just feel more comfortable speaking to another veteran over a civilian or their Veterans Affairs provider. I feel like helping other servicemembers and veterans is my purpose, and I am passionate about being there for my fellow brothers and sisters.”

The ‘Coffee with the Commander’ meeting was designed to get candid feedback from the employees without fear of reprisal and informing them that the command maintains an open-door policy. Such gatherings also allow garrison leaders to learn of any areas of concern or how to improve new hire onboarding.

Coffee with the commander is currently a monthly activity. It is expected to become a reoccurring event, designed to foster clear communication within the garrison while strengthening relationships among employees, directors, and key leaders.

“Continue to reach out to other veterans,” Burgos said in his closing remarks. “Try to communicate with other veterans here at Picatinny and create a close-knit community. We need that effort. The veterans help run the installation. You have that leadership, that knowledge, that experience that this post needs.”

According to the official site of the State of New Jersey, there are more than 712,000 Veterans living in the Garden State. Trained veterans service officers at the state’s Division of Veterans Program offices can assist veterans with issues pertaining to employment, education, burial, counseling, housing, social and medical services, and other areas of concern to veterans and their families. For more information, visit https://nj.gov/faqs/topics/veterans/.

Veterans seeking information on local services or with other questions relating to their service can visit vets4warriors.com or call the  24-hour toll-free number at 855-838-8255.