Fort Drum’s excellence is now no secret to communities Armywide.
For a second consecutive year, the post was ranked among the Army’s top installations, winning the 2012 Army Communities of Excellence bronze award last week for its outstanding garrison support and services.
“I was very pleased and extraordinarily proud of our workforce,” said Col. Noel T. Nicolle, Fort Drum garrison commander since 2010. “It’s two years in a row that we land a medal, which is pretty tough to do.”
The announcement marks the third consecutive year that Fort Drum claims an ACOE award. The installation shared the ACOE silver award with Fort Campbell, Ky., last year and won an ACOE exemplary practice award two years ago.
In addition to prestige and bragging rights, the bronze award comes with a $150,000 prize.
“In my opinion, this is the best garrison in the Army,” said garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Mark H. Oldroyd, who assumed his current position last year but has served at Fort Drum since 2007.
“This is the best workforce in the Army. Everyone says that when you talk to folks at other posts,” he said. “Our programs at Fort Drum – not just in one area but many areas – are often cited as the format for the rest of the Army to use.
“Having been in the Army for over 26 years … I’ve seen what exists elsewhere,” Oldroyd added. “What we have here at Fort Drum is very special.”
The last two years are the only times in the past decade that Fort Drum competed for an ACOE award at the installation level.
Sponsored by the Army chief of staff, the ACOE program seeks to develop better Army communities by singling out installations for excellence in innovation, strategic planning, leadership development, cost-cutting measures, ground-breaking initiatives and business process improvements.
Installations are graded on the quality of support that Soldiers, Families, civilian employees and retirees receive. Scoring is based on various standards, including the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality criteria as well as how garrison processes measure against the Installation Management Campaign Plan.
This year, the ACOE gold award went to Fort Stewart / Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., while the silver was awarded to Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Hood, Texas.
Nicolle pointed out that because the bronze is being shared with U.S. Army Garrison Japan and USAG Yongsan, Korea, Fort Drum ranks among the top four Army installations in the continental Uni-ted States.
“That’s pretty heady,” he said. “I can tell you that the differences – once you get up to that level between bronze, silver and gold – are not a lot. What separate those installations are nuances.”
Oldroyd agreed, comparing the top finishers in the Army’s annual competition to runners in the Olympics.
“When we’re talking gold, silver or bronze, it’s hard for people to understand the nuances that separate those three,” he said. “We’re talking microseconds. We’re talking about three guys, and one guy stuck his head out first and got gold.”
Competition for the ACOE awards each year is intense. Ni-colle said that to be successful, installations must show a great deal of pride in what they do.
He said at Fort Drum, the workforce’s hard work, as well as its integration with the division and off-post communities, helped rank the installation in the top six of the Army’s 186 camps, posts and stations worldwide.
He also emphasized the hard work of the Plans, Analysis and Integration Office, which was responsible for compiling and submitting a detailed “garrison profile.” He said it’s true that an installation must first have the systems in place to be competitive at all, but that it takes a great degree of expertise to assemble a winning packet that captures the garrison’s overall efforts.
“A large measure of congratulations has to go to Mrs. Sonja Draught, who was our lead in this,” the colonel said. “She did a wonderful job. This is the second year (that she has helped) lead the installation to medal in the ACOE competition. That speaks volumes.”
For her part, Draught said that seeing Fort Drum’s garrison team recognized for a second consecutive year was particularly rewarding.
“It reinforces to the entire military community that Fort Drum is a great place to live, work and serve,” said Draught, lead plans specialist at the PAI Office. “This recognition is a testament of our workforce commitment to provide quality services to our Soldier and Families.
“I encourage the workforce to keep the (PAI) office apprised of process improvements, significant achievements and new ideas in the directorates,” Draught added.
Fort Drum officials, including Nicolle, Oldroyd and Draught, are scheduled to accept the award at the Pentagon in May.
During the last decade of war, America has relied on Fort Drum’s 10th Mountain Division (LI) to continually deploy brigades overseas, leaving Family Members to greatly depend on command and community support.
Nicolle said a unique characteristic at Fort Drum is its strong bond with the communities off post. Many Soldiers choose to retire in the area, and Fort Drum was even ranked fourth by mili-tary.com two years ago as one of the best military family-friendly cities to live in.
“I think it speaks volumes for our community that’s integrated with us from outside the wire,” Nicolle said. “I think the local community completely embraces the installation and, of course, are very interested in what we are doing. They can take pride in this award as well.”
When it comes to members of the garrison workforce, they are a loyal bunch too, Oldroyd noted. He said he is certain they would have done the same job whether a competition and evaluation was taking place or not.
“I’m proud as hell of them,” he said. “I am proud, so proud of what they do here. They are what they knew was true, and this is just a way of saying it.
“They should feel proud,” he added. “This is a recognition of their efforts.”
Nicolle also wanted to thank the garrison workforce for doing its job with excellence day in and day out – not for an award, but out of a sense of duty and honor.
“This award solely belongs to the garrison workforce,” he said. “All of those in our civilian workforce have contributed to this award. This award is theirs. They have earned it. That’s why when the garrison is driving through the front gates, they will (soon) see Army Community of Excellence 2010, 2011 and 2012.
“They have tremendous reason to be proud.”