A woman dedicated to the development and well-being of Fort Drum children and youths received special recognition this week for her years of hard work and innovative ideas at the post’s Child, Youth and School Services.
Rebecca “Becky” Morgia, CYSS program operations specialist, was named “Hero of the Day” on Monday by Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter, commanding general of U.S. Installation Management Command, during a video teleconference involving garrison commanders Armywide.
Speaking from IMCOM headquarters in San Antonio, Ferriter stopped halfway through this week’s commander’s update briefing to thank Morgia for her dedication, passion and humility.
“You’re a team-builder,” the general said. “And it’s the teams that work together here that are made up of great people — like you. And that makes a difference with (the children) … you get to take care of.
“They are well cared for, because of somebody like you,” Ferriter added. “I thank you.”
The IMCOM “Hero of the Day” recognition aims to celebrate the “unsung heroes” of the IMCOM community who work hard every day serving Soldiers, Families and civilians.
In the official citation, Morgia was credited for anticipating more growth at Fort Drum and creating an extensive construction plan years ago that met the installation’s child care needs through fiscal year 2012.
She was praised for managing that infrastructure buildup over the years, which expanded CYSS capabilities into what would eventually be an integrated campus of nine centers.
Officials said the design created efficiencies in staffing, while also making it easier for parents and school buses to drop off children at multiple centers.
Morgia also found a way to repurpose facility spacing. In so doing, she procured an additional 240 child care spaces, the equivalent of a new facility costing an estimated $12 million.
Morgia, who also worked tirelessly earlier this year to help Fort Drum do well in two audits involving the Army Auditing Agency and the Army’s Inspector General, accepted the recognition with poise and deference alongside Col. Gary A. Rosenberg, Fort Drum garrison commander.
“I work with a dynamic group of employees and co-workers under the best leadership,” Morgia explained to Ferriter. “We have partnered together over the last seven years to develop the kind of campus we have right now.”
“Becky is being very modest,” Rosenberg followed. “She is a stellar employee and part of a stellar team. We wouldn’t be as successful here in CYSS without her and that team.
“I can’t be prouder,” he said. “We really, really have a superstar here.”
Nearly 10,000 youths and children were enrolled in CYSS programs last year. Despite demand more than doubling in recent years, child care availability at Fort Drum exceeds Army standards (80 percent of demand met).
Rosenberg pointed out how Morgia has successfully administered many facets of CYSS operations, including contractor deadlines during facility renovation and construction.
He said Morgia’s strong “attention to detail” even led her to reject a contractor’s work for seven months until $1.5 million in repairs were completed.
Her foresight, Rosenberg added, also created a CYSS “campus” setting that logistically improved operations for staff and parents.
“The idea for clustering these (facilities) together … has done a number of things that have allowed us to increase efficiencies, (including the) sharing of staff between facilities,” the garrison commander noted.
For her part, Morgia said she could not have accomplished all that she had over the years without the support of many players at Fort Drum, including garrison leadership, Public Works, CYSS co-workers and the CYSS parent organization — Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
After thanking Ferriter for the special recognition, Morgia again expressed her gratitude for the leadership she is under at Fort Drum.
“It is a huge honor to receive this today,” she said. “My leadership here that I am working very closely with is extremely supportive, and I couldn’t be where I am today without them.”
Harold E. Greer, FMWR director, accompanied Morgia to the teleconference Monday along with Karin S. Sikirica, CYSS coordinator.
Greer said Morgia has been an exceptional employee, a strong and tenacious leader who sets an example for others to follow.
“She brings to the program a passion to serve military Families,” Greer said, “a boundless energy to contribute to a team effort and (strong) Family values. She has been a pillar partner in a small group of four best managers that has grown the installation’s CYSS programming threefold (and) maintained the highest of Army and Family child care standards.”
Her father’s daughter
Child and Youth Services (as CYSS was known then) hired Morgia in 1999 to work as a trainer at the Youth Center on post. At the time, there were only two other facilities: one for day care and the other a school-age program.
As a trainer, Morgia’s job was to teach staff members positive methods for interacting with children. Trainers also help child care workers develop lesson plans, curriculums and individual development plans.
Morgia, who holds a degree in childhood psychology from Roberts Wesleyan College, grew up in Carthage in the same house her parents still live in. She began attending Carthage Central High School in 1988, three years after the 10th Mountain Division was reactivated at Fort Drum.
“There weren’t any gates at Fort Drum back then,” she recalled. “At that point, it was really all foreign to us. Carthage was a small school district, and there was this (influx) of military.”
But Morgia’s experience with Soldiers was closer to home. Her father, Timothy Earle, had for years been working as a tank mechanic with the New York Army Reserve / National Guard Combined Support Maintenance Shop at Fort Drum. Before his career as an active-duty enlisted Soldier, he had helped support operations in Vietnam during a stint with the Navy from 1963 to 1969.
In 1998, he retired with more than 35 years of active-duty military service and went on to rebuild helicopter engines for a contractor at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield.
“While growing up, we came onto Fort Drum a couple of times a week to visit my dad,” Morgia recalled. “I thought then, and I still do, that he was the ideal Soldier. He was a very hard worker. That’s one of the big things I learned from him.
“That, and his strong will and determination,” she added. “I think he has been my driving force as far as where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do.”
Morgia said for as long as she can remember, she has wanted to work with children. She considers it somewhat of a gift, a calling, something that not every person is meant to do.
After a year and a half of working as a trainer under Sikirica, whom Morgia considers a mentor, she became the Youth Services director. She did that job for a year before taking over the Chapel Drive Child Development Center.
She said she spent three years at Chapel Drive getting the facility to “where it needed to be.”
“We were very short on staff,” she said. “It took (some time) to get things back on track and get a team of individuals who wanted to be there for the right reasons, who understood this was a career and not just a paycheck.”
For her dedication and tenacity, CYSS management promoted Morgia to her current position in 2007.
“Becky is a very dedicated and hard-working person with the highest (level) of integrity,” Sikirica said. “The management team we have built here, you will not find anywhere else.”
When she’s not managing staff and printing out reports, Morgia enjoys spending most of her time at the family’s hobby farm in Clayton with her husband, a civil engineer, and their two children — Mia, 13, and AJ, 12.
“One thing that Karin has always preached to us is that this is a career, but your family is what you are here for,” she said. “And your family comes first.”
Morgia said her daughter cares for the ducks, chickens and geese on the farm, but her real passion is riding her horse, “Tulsa,” and competing in local horse shows. Meanwhile, her son enjoys trapping mink, muskrat and beaver with his father.
As the dust has begun settling from the years of heavy growth at CYSS, Morgia said other challenges have speckled the landscape.
With the fiscal uncertainties under sequestration, furloughing all Army civilian employees became a strong possibility. Morgia said such an action would have presented significant distress to many parents who use CYSS.
“One of our top priorities at CYSS is ensuring that our parents are always as prepared as they can be,” Morgia said. “We informed them quickly and as early as possible of the potential furlough, knowing that most parents can’t fulfill their obligations without child care.
“We did not want to close, but we had to begin mentally preparing for what people were calling ‘furlough Friday,’” she added.
Ultimately, Nonappropriated Fund employees, which account for more than 95 percent of CYSS, were exempted from potential furloughs.
In addition to dealing with the furlough issue, Morgia said multiple Armywide inspections of CYSS facilities earlier this year required extra attention to detail and due diligence.
“CYSS is a very fragile system in which all components have to work together in order for it to be successful,” she said. “Ev-ery day care has to operate seamlessly and consistently.”
It all comes back to teamwork for Morgia, who reiterated the fact that she did not help Fort Drum CYSS achieve such success alone.
“I think everybody on this team at CYSS has worked so hard at getting things to this point,” she said. “I feel very honored and humbled by the award, but I (wish) I could see my co-workers receive the same recognition. I didn’t get us to where we are now. We really all did this together, because we are a very tight-knit team.”