By Mr. Eric Kowal (RDECOM)July 2, 2012
Two years ago, at the Garrison change of command ceremony here, Russell B. Hall described the incoming commander, Lt. Col. Charles (Herb) Koehler, as the "perfect fit for the role of Picatinny Garrison Commander."
Hall, then director of the northeast region of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, may have been gazing into a crystal ball that day in April 2010 because many would agree that his assumption was correct.
Koehler's previous assignment was with the Defense Logistics Agency in Fort Belvoir, Va., where he served as Executive Officer.
That experience helped him mold the Picatinny infrastructure around an ever-changing Army.
(The Garrison command was transferred to Lt. Col. Jason C. Mackay on June 18.)
When Koehler arrived at Picatinny, he was stepping into the shoes of Col. (then Lt. Col.) John P. Stack, who helped bring many new improvements to the Arsenal, including a new firehouse, new childcare facilities, and upgrades to the Cannon Gates Catering and Conference Center.
In addition, he helped bring together new community partnerships with the signing of various community covenants.
Koehler jumped in the mix with both feet. He helped to ensure a timely completion of all the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) requirements, along with making significant improvements to the aging infrastructure of many facilities.
Along the way, Koehler faced difficult challenges. Budgets decreased and he had to propose plans to implement severe resource reductions while minimizing disruptions to the mission.
"Operating a support organization in a time of diminishing resources has been tough," Koehler said.
"Our customers have become accustomed to a certain level of service that we can no longer afford. Thankfully, our mission partners largely recognize this and understand our collective fiscal reality."
As Garrison commander, Koehler is in charge of maintaining and operating the 6,500-acre installation with more than 700 active buildings and a military and civilian workforce of more than 5,200 people.
Koehler saw a need to reduce operating costs and, as a strong advocate of energy-reducing initiatives, formed an Installation Energy Steering Committee.
His efforts resulted in Picatinny exceeding the Department of the Army goals for energy reduction, and the installation won the Secretary of the Army Award for both energy and water conservation in 2010 and 2011.
Koehler said that the most satisfying moment his tenure as garrison commander resulted from BRAC.
"The culmination of BRAC 2005, where we accommodated a 5 percent increase in our supported population and opened $63 million in new or renovated facilities ahead of the deadline, means the most to me," Koehler remembers.
"Our new tenants, Navy and elements of ARDEC, have become an integral part of a tight community, and our Department of Public Works led this effort. We owe them thanks," he said.
During his tenure, Koehler also oversaw a number of quality of life improvements.
They include renovation of recreational apartments, construction of three new cabins, renovation of locker rooms and pools at the Forge Fitness Center, expansion of the Child and Youth Services Centers, modernization of post dining facilities and a dog park.
When asked what advice he could provide to the incoming garrison commander, Koehler said, "Lt. Col. Jason Mackay is a battle-tested leader. We have similar backgrounds, so I know the transition will be seamless. He will maintain our momentum and bring a fresh set of eyes to a difficult but important mission."
Koehler and his family will return to the Washington D.C. area, where he will serve as a regional director of a new Army program called Soldier for Life.
The Soldier For Life Program is organized as part of the Office of the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army and serves as his "eyes and ears" for the needs of Soldiers, veterans, Army families, and the families of service members who died while serving the country.