FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- A Fort Drum leader with nearly 26 years of service is preparing to take on the biggest job in his career next month. Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. John F. McNeirney will take the reins as the U.S. Army Military Police School command sergeant major / Military Police Corps regimental command sergeant major on Nov. 18 at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

Since March 2010, McNeirney has served as military liaison between Fort Drum Soldiers and civilians. Being a military policeman and serving in various leadership positions such as provost sergeant major at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and 91st Military Police Battalion here, he was used to working in a garrison environment and working with civilians.

Traditionally, many noncommissioned officers are only exposed to working with Soldiers at the unit level, according to McNeirney. Although he was used to working alongside civilian police officers, McNeirney said he had no idea how much civilian employees do on the installation.

"If I've learned anything (in this position), it's that we have a phenomenally dedicated civilian workforce that is here to support the Soldiers, Families and civilians on the installation," McNeirney said. "The intricacies of our civilian workforce and their dedication to mission success on a daily basis are not recognized enough."

"Civilians will work overtime, they'll come in on Saturdays, stay late, come in early to get whatever it is done," he continued. "As units have unique needs, our civilian workforce has adapted. They are as capable as any Soldier or Family Member we have across the Army."

Understanding the civilian workforce allowed him to serve as a better liaison between units and senior military leaders on post, McNeirney explained. He learned to consider both the needs of the Soldiers and the impact on the civilian workforce.

"I advise the civilian workforce on how to complete the mission and advise (my) peers in the military on what our capabilities are in garrison and how we can meet (the Soldiers' or units') needs," McNeirney said.

"(Soldiers) grow up where they're comfortable," he continued, adding that it's a different experience working with Soldiers over the course of a career compared to working with civilians at the garrison level.

Earlier this year, the installation earned the Army Community of Excellence silver award, which McNeirney directly attributes to civilian workforce.

"It's the hard work of every one of those civilians in the workforce across every one of our directorates and in every section that make Fort Drum that place people want to be," he said.

Serving as garrison command sergeant major also has taught McNeirney alternate leadership styles and skills. Soldiers and civilians require different leadership skills, and he said he plans to use them in his new position.

"(It's been a) broadening experience of how to interact with your civilian employees, because it's a different style of leadership," McNeirney said. "It's not a directive like with Soldiers. Civilian employees are hired on solely for their technical expertise."

"I've found the art of influence is much more effective, and it's really leadership in its truest form -- the ability to influence someone to accomplish the mission you want to them to do, providing them (with) resources, motivation, direction and purpose," he continued.

The skills he's learned communicating with civilian employees also carried over to how he interacted with the civilian community as well.

"I love Fort Drum. It is the Army's best kept secret for a lot of reasons," McNeirney said. "We have such a tight-knit relationship with our local communities. They give us phenomenal support. It's better than any community relations that I personally have been involved (with) in 26 years."

McNeirney said everything he's learned here as the garrison senior enlisted leader has been "a great stepping stone" for him and will help him in his next job.

At Fort Leonard Wood, he will be responsible for not only the career training of MPs, but the future of the MP Corps, including doctrine, leadership, policies, developing the career management field for enlisted Soldiers and officers, while considering the needs of combatant commanders, new missions and challenges overseas, McNeirney explained.

"There's a balancing act on where you have to focus, but it all comes together," he said.

The position will require him to think about the future of the military police function for the rest of the Army, because whether they're at home or war, MPs play a critical role, McNeirney said.

"Our Soldiers, Families and civilians on the installation deserve the same level of policing and law enforcement capabilities (that they can find) outside our gates," he added.