GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — In almost every Army community, you’ll find a Deputy to the Garrison Commander, or DGC. Described by some as the equivalent to a city manager, the garrison deputy oversees day-to-day operations in the areas of public works, housing, in-processing, education, fire and emergency services, postal, MWR, religious support, public affairs, human resources and safety.
Annette Evans, who arrived in November 2015 to US. Army Garrison Bavaria, works collaboratively with key community organizers and the garrison team across five communities to help keep the community of 35,000, and growing, running smoothly.
To put this in perspective, the military community here in Bavaria, which stretches from Grafenwoehr to Garmisch, is the U.S. Army’s largest overseas garrison. With the addition of new rotational forces and an uptick in NATO-funded exercises, USAG Bavaria is also home to Army Europe readiness.
The job of the DGC for the garrison means that Evans serves as the garrison command group’s senior civilian. Along with the garrison commander and command sergeant major, these three top community officials make up the garrison’s concentrated, but highly-talented leadership team.
“I try to fill in the gaps and seams and try to combine a team-centric philosophy with a positive attitude,” Evans said. “The Soldiers and families in our garrison deserve great programs and services. Our Army professionals strive to deliver that every day.”
Her ability to upend obsolete programs, improve inefficiencies and confront garrison problems from every angle of civic management did not just willfully surface in her repertoire of talents.
In 1994, when she was just 26, Evans left her university job to live abroad — something she promised to do after completing her master’s degree. She joined her best friend at Caserma Ederle, U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza, Italy and, after a few months, decided to stay. This was her first real experience on a military installation. She has worked with the Army ever since.
Evans values education and considers it among a person’s greatest professional assets. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of New Mexico, a master’s in educational leadership from the University of Oklahoma and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College. Currently, she is pursuing her doctoral degree in international development from the University of Southern Mississippi.
I had the privilege to sit down with our garrison deputy Annette Evans and ask a few questions. Here’s a glimpse into her unique story.
1. What is your favorite part about being deputy to the garrison commander?
I absolutely love watching our team members succeed in their respective jobs — from day to day operations, to strategic long-term projects that serve Soldiers, civilians and their Families. Helping our 1500-plus U.S. and German to serve the Army is exceedingly interesting, particularly in this geostrategic location. I also love watching former and current employees move forward in their chosen career fields. I am always happy to help support the paths they choose.
2. How did you begin your career in the Department of Defense?
I came to Caserna Ederle, the Army post at Vicenza, Italy, as a tourist. My dad is a Vietnam veteran, but we were not a military family. And when I saw that the base looked a lot like a college campus, I decided to stay and find a job. In those days, it was much easier to become a local hire in Europe. My first federal job was with MWR marketing.
3. What was your dream job as a kid?
Corporate executive. I always pictured myself in the world of business, working in DC. Now, I would never want that. I just love what I do. I love contributing to the U.S. Army, and I have since the very first day I arrived on Caserma Ederle.
4. In a matter of three days, you’ve headed meetings at all four garrison locations, including USAG Bavaria’s “fifth community,” the rotational and multinational forces in our training areas. And when you’re off the clock, you’re working on a doctoral degree in International Development. How do you find balance? What keeps you going?
My energy stems from three things: my spiritual beliefs, the support that my family gives me — including the legacy of my grandparents who were a major influence in my life — and the fact that I love my job, contributing to our communities and working with our team. It’s really important to love what you do. My academic pursuits are my hobby at the moment. About four or five years ago, I also started doing daily meditation every morning. Every morning, I listen to short, positive meditations, journal about them and prayerfully reflect on them for a few minutes. It helps me find my center, and I definitely appreciate the quiet time to regain energy. It’s so important to be able to read things in the morning and start your day off right. I’m also a fan of peanut butter when the going gets rough.
5. You have a broad range of knowledge and experience, from serving as MWR Director to working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Afghanistan. How has this influenced your professional vision? Has it helped you as deputy?
My mission statement, which I wrote down in 1994 in what I call my big blue journal, is “to contribute to healthy communities at home and abroad.” Serving within military communities is a way that I try to reach that mission. MWR was a great place to learn how to contribute to Army life. My two tours in Afghanistan will remain one of the highlights of my professional career, along with attending the U.S. Army War College and supporting the 173rd Airborne Brigade during their rotations downrange from 2003-2008.
During my first tour in Afghanistan — I was there from 2010-2011 — I led a small U.S. Army Corps of Engineers team that built roads, bridges, dams, hydropower centers and education and health centers in local Afghan communities. We worked with ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) Regional Command South and Southwest from the Kandahar, Helmand Provinces.
My second tour at U.S. Forces Afghanistan headquarters, I worked as the deputy within the Joint Engineer Team from 2013-2014. We focused on projects both within U.S. military posts and outside the wire. We also helped clear explosive remnants of war. I really felt like I was contributing to something great there. We brought water, repaired roads.
Those experiences certainly helped me gain leadership experience. They also helped me further appreciate the value of collaboration and listening within the context of culture.
6. What advice would you tell women pursuing positions of female leadership?
The Army is a phenomenal organization to work for, especially as a civilian. Anyone — man or woman — should take advantage of all the available learning opportunities. The Army offers tons: formal training and education like those offered by the Civilian Education System and the U.S. Army War College and temporary assignments. Also, volunteer to lead hard projects. Challenge yourself every day, at least once. Live in places that challenge your mindset. Experience the culture, no matter where you are. You should also define your own boundaries according to your belief systems and be disciplined to those beliefs. Explore, have fun, but be responsible. Your professional and personal reputations will follow you forever.
7. Who or what inspires you most? Why?
I have learned from so many senior military and civilian leaders, in countless ways. I try to record the lessons I learn from each leader. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t get inspiration from leaders and people I work with. On a personal note, my Aunt Colleen, now deceased, and Uncle Harvey were two of my earliest inspirations. Both were teachers, and they instilled in me a love of reading and the courage to explore. I am a fourth generation family member from a rural town in northern New Mexico, and they — along with my parents — were the support network behind my pursuit of education and travel.
8. What do you see as the biggest challenge for the upcoming generation of working women?
I am in awe of people who work full-time and have a family, including those of my doctoral colleagues. They demonstrate amazing time management skills. If working women choose to have a family, I would imagine the biggest challenge remains finding the balance among competing priorities. As a single professional without children myself, I also maintain that finding balance is tough. There’s always a to-do list and finding work-life balance is a challenge for me. Physical and spiritual fitness really is the foundation of life, and taking time for both of those dimensions — as well as the value of relationships — is easy to overlook.
9. What is the last book you read?
The Political Economy of the World Trading System: The WTO and Beyond by Bernard Hoekman and Michel Kostecki. That said, also check out Raymond Carver’s A New Path to the Waterfall and the book’s closing poem, “Late Fragment:”
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
Editor’s Note: Influential Women of Bavaria is a series of stories on women located at USAG Bavaria who lead positive examples. The series runs through the month of March, Women’s History Month. Around the world, women bring a special vitality and balance to schools, businesses, governments and militaries. The same is true at USAG Bavaria. From supporting Soldiers at home to serving in the front lines and even holding positions of leadership, women in Bavaria are pretty noteworthy. The short pieces from Influential Women of Bavaria are just one way of capturing that.