After serving six years as the deputy to the garrison commander at Fort Campbell, Jonathan B. Hunter was recently selected as a team lead in the Army’s People First Task Force.
Hunter will be part of integrating Headquarters Department of the Army’s response, reform and implementation of policy, programs and directives to ensure the safety, health and well-being of the Army’s greatest strength and most valuable asset – its people.
During a May 25 farewell event, garrison directors and staff expressed bittersweet sentiment and celebrated Hunter’s new role, an opportunity to impact Soldiers and Families Army-wide.
“I had one of the best deputies that the Army has prepared over a lifetime and Fort Campbell is the recipient of that good luck,” said Col. Jeremy D. Bell, garrison commander. “The People First Task Force is exactly where Mr. Hunter needs to be. His expertise, his wisdom, his knowledge of the installation, of our Soldiers and Families, of what they need, he’s the right person for the right job at the right time.”
Since 2015, Hunter led and managed one of the largest and most complex installations in the Army. During the workforce farewell event at the Soldier Support Center, several staff members shared their experiences and stories about what it was like to work with a leader who set the bar high for himself while also empowering everyone around him to do the same.
“Mr. Hunter’s been a positive influence on DPW,” said Matthew Brackett, acting director, Directorate of Public Works. Recalling Hunter’s reputation as a “numbers guy”, Brackett rattled off a few numbers for DPW.
“During your tenure, we accomplished the following: “$500 million in SRM [sustainment, restoration and modernization] invested at Fort Campbell, demolished 1,406,398 square-feet of World War II era wood, planted over 1,000 trees, established a 5.6 megawatt solar array and spread about 9,600 tons of salt to keep the roads clear,” he said.
Hunter’s significant contributions in ensuring Fort Campbell remains the best Soldier and Family experience are visible in the footprint he leaves behind, Bell said.
“When you look at the impact that Mr. Hunter has had on this installation, you can see it, the visible part, those things that are above ground,” he said. “You can see it in our infrastructure, water, gas, electrical, you can see it in the buildings that he helped shape.”
The Spouse Employment Center in collaboration with the Campbell Strong Workforce Partnership is an example of Hunter’s positive contribution to Fort Campbell’s Soldiers and Families. The Campbell Strong Workforce Partnership was made possible through a $7.7 million federal grant from the Department of Labor that was designed to support the employment readiness of Fort Campbell’s military spouses and transitioning Soldiers.
Through Campbell Strong, the federal grant provides up to $5,000 in employment resource services tailored to the specific needs of each participant, and incentives to employers. The collaboration is still a one of a kind within the Department of Defense.
Another initiative that benefitted Fort Campbell’s civilian workforce is the Garrison Learning Center, a place where the workforce can take part in professional development training. The need for a center was first identified during an employee engagement workshop in February 2016. At the time the available civilian training was fragmented across post. Leadership Fort Campbell 2.0 was the first formal course taught in the facility that opened January 2018.
“Those are all things that Mr. Hunter had an influence on, that he gave guidance, direction, purpose and focused us on what’s important, and how we can provide a better service to those that we serve,” Bell said.
The professional development programs Hunter put in place have had a great impact on Fort Campbell’s civilian workforce, he said.
“When we talk about the future of Fort Campbell and what it means and Mr. Hunter’s impact, that’s it,” Bell said. “Because that’s a decades-long impact and he had a vision, he knew what was important.”
Huge shoes to fill
During his tenure, Hunter continuously pursued a deeper understanding of everything within the garrison, a trait Gary Baumann, Fort Campbell civilian attorney, found admirable.
“Whenever there was a tough issue to deal with, he became essentially a subject matter expert on it so that he was confident he was making the right decision and the best decision for the Army, and all involved,” Baumann said.
Jessica Stonesifer, acting deputy to the garrison commander, also appreciated Hunter’s expert knowledge of the intricacies of the garrison.
“He’s just got an unprecedented understanding of the business, how it works and the nuance of how to message, how to advocate for the installation in a way I think most people take for granted,” Stonesifer said. “I know from my perspective having worked at the directorate level and just beneath the garrison, I think I grossly underestimated just how much he and the command team here do on a daily basis to support the Soldiers and their Families.”
She hopes to model her leadership style after some of Hunter’s qualities, namely his strict adherence to professionalism.
“The thing that I noticed the most about Mr. Hunter that I would like to emulate is that I’ve never seen him be unprofessional, and when people are here or not, he’s the same person no matter when you interact with him, and he has an incredible amount of integrity.” Stonesifer said. “He’s going to leave huge shoes to fill that I’m not sure really anyone could quite measure up to.”
Hunter on leadership
During his tenure Hunter felt immense pride in the Fort Campbell civilian workforce, he said, adding he will miss the people he worked with most.
“The civilian workforce is passionate about taking care of Soldiers and Families, and I just think, frankly, people just don’t appreciate that enough,” Hunter said. “And you’ll never hear them complain about it, they’ll do their best to take care of Soldiers as much as possible, they’re an absolute joy to be around.”
His advice for his successor is to remember to listen closely to everyone on staff, regardless of their age or level of education.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned in the last six years is, listen to the workforce,” Hunter said. “Some of the absolute best ideas that we have put into practice came from our most junior employees. Sometimes the smartest person in the room isn’t the most senior person in the room. So, listen to them, it’s amazing how talented they are.”
What is most valuable in a leader and what he strives to do every day is to bring out the best in people, Hunter said. By building self-confidence and giving people a chance to excel at what they do, they rise to the challenge and in the process set a new standard for themselves. He believes it is the willingness of the civilian workforce to rise to the occasion and challenge themselves that makes Fort Campbell one of the best Army installations he’s seen.