FORT A.P. HILL, VA— Lt. Col. Jack Haefner grew nostalgic as he reflected on his 3-year command at Fort A.P. Hill.
“There is a distinct connection from when I first got on board and now,” Haefner said, noting he felt overwhelmed, in awe and wonder, when he arrived in June 2009. Those feelings still remain today. “I leave here feeling overwhelmed with thanks, in awe of what everybody does and in wonder of the great possibilities of the people here and the neighbors of Fort A.P. Hill. All the time in between, the flurry of activity, has crystallized and forced me not to take for granted but be thankful for, all that is Fort A.P. Hill.”
Haefner will relinquish command to incoming commander, Lt. Col. Peter E. Dargle, at a Change of Command Ceremony June 18 at Fort A.P. Hill. Dargle most recently served as joint staff lead exercise planner supporting U.S. Central Command.
Fort A.P. Hill is a Regional Collective Training Center where Warriors have honed their combat edge for 71 years.
During Haefner’s tenure, the post trained over 90,000 Warriors annually—a 30 percent increase over the prior 10 years. The post also became an integral part of Special Operations Joint Elements and Stryker Brigade training facilities.
In addition to Warrior throughput, the post saw growth with various military construction projects to include the Sustainment Center of Excellence Explosive Ordnance Training Complex, which opened in October 2011; two recreational cabins that opened in October 2011, and a Training Support Center that opened in February 2012.
The post also broke ground for a U.S. Army Reserve Center, scheduled to open November 2012, and the Asymmetric Warfare Group Complex, scheduled to open in November 2013.
But, by far, the largest growth was attributed to the Boy Scouts of America National Scout Jamboree held in the summer of 2010. The 100th Anniversary of Boy Scouts also marked the largest jamboree held at Fort A.P. Hill in 29 years. The Jamboree drew about 47,000 Boy Scouts and Boy Scouts of America professional/volunteer staff, 2,000 military augmentees and more than 270,000 visitors to the post.
Even with these milestones during his tenure, when asked about his personal contributions, Haefner simply replied, “I feel like I am one of the beneficiaries of being in command because of the way so many people have taught me and showed me the ropes. I have been able to be just sort of the captain that steers the ship, while everyone has been doing quite meaningful work on a daily basis. So, allowing people to do what people do, and they do it very well, would be my contribution. The people here are by far, the best in the Army.”
Haefner always valued the relationships shared with community leaders, organizations, and residents in surrounding communities.
“We serve both at the pleasure of the resident and the Constitutional government; ‘We the People,’ I want them to understand that this is their Army not just the Army or an Army, they own it and they are part of the Army. There is a need for them to be brought in to see how we fit. I think our [training throughput] numbers and the understanding from the public and what we do is vital to national defense. Balancing safety and public concerns with our mission bear that out,” he said.
Engaging the public when concerns arose regarding the location of the EOD Training Complex at Fort A.P. Hill that stemmed from a 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendation and launching the first Citizens’ Academy at Fort A.P. Hill were items he listed under accomplishments in community relations.
“I think we did a very good job in helping the public see the nature of our business as Warriors, and as Army Civilians. The Citizens’ Academy, of course, being chief among them,” he said.
The Citizens’ Academy provided the opportunity to nine citizens to work side-by-side with post employees as they learned about what they do every day to provide ready and capable training facilities through the lens of stewardship, safety, and professionalism.
Whether it was the workforce or the community, the most special part of his tenure was observing the workforce’s “sacrifices on a daily basis and how they take it all in stride … the number of people of who used to serve in uniform that chose to continue to serve as civilians, and those who have never served who serve as civilians who are extremely committed. It really shows in the comments we receive. We can be short of funding at times and materials but you just can’t replace the enthusiasm and the people here understand that.”
So, did he meet all his goals while at Fort A.P. Hill?
“No. There are a number of things that once you get to a point and you are six months away from leaving, you stop with the ideas and you make sure things are a solid and as understandable as possible for the new person and that you don’t break anything that shouldn’t have been broken. There are still some things to do out there on the list,” he said.
Haefner has served in the Army for 21 years but his greatest personal victory is his family.
Haefner is married to Toni and they have three children, 9-year-old Cora, 11-year-old Lucas, and 2-year-old Mary Therese.
“My vocation as a person is being a Father. The fathering of all my children is very important to me, but more especially, Mary, who was born here at Fort A.P. Hill. All other personal stuff pales in comparison to my vocation as a father,” he said.