By Michael Norris
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. -Denise Faldowski, the chief of the Directorate of Public Works’ Operations and Maintenance branch on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, has been in her position a month.
An engineer by training who grew up in eastern Ohio, she comes to JBM-HH from Fort Carson, Colo., where she served in the engineering division. Prior to joining federal government service, she was a civil engineer involved in commercial land development.
Faldowski said she chose her profession because her father was a coal miner and she wanted to become a mining engineer. Her dad wasn’t too keen on that choice, however, so she chose the field of civil engineering instead.
According to Tony Taylor, O & M branch chief, Faldowski is the first woman to hold the position of chief on JBM-HH.
Faldowski said she doesn’t think that’s such a big deal. "I may be the first here," she said, "but not in the Army." From her understanding, she said there have already been three women who headed up operations and maintenance at Fort Bragg, N.C.
"I’ve been in this field since ’99," she added. "I have plenty of women friends who are engineers doing groundbreaking stuff."
What does she like about her job? "Taking care of soldiers every day," she explained. "The people we help and (those on) my staff here are fantastic – they’re great people. When you work on a military installation, a lot of the times the people are prior military, they’ve got kids in the military. I believe in that mission. At the end of the day, it’s not just the job, you’re supporting a bigger effort."
While she’s only been in the position four weeks, Faldowski said her goal is to improve upon the processes the installation already has in place and getting to a point where DPW can do more preventive maintenance than reacting to problems as they arise. "That would be a tremendous goal," she said.
"It doesn’t matter who the client is, we’re here to serve our military counterparts," she said. "I haven’t really seen the demanding side of it. I mean we try to respond effectively and efficiently.
"I just try to put myself in their shoes," she added. "If I didn’t have air conditioning, you know, we need to get it fixed. And if I didn’t have water, we’d need to get that fixed. I think that comes with the territory. It’s a very reactionary environment and we try to react accordingly when the calls come in."
Faldowski said each installation has its own unique history and set of issues.
"All bases are old. At Fort Carson, we operated initially out of a World War II temporary facility. All bases have wear and tear; things aren’t perfect," she said. "Fort Carson had a different historical impact … more cultural resources. We had fossils, we had Indian grounds, we had hitching posts, we had original homesteads. The facilities here [at JBM-HH] are much older, but we had similar concerns there [in Colorado]."
Faldowski’s primary work rule is "honesty is the best policy."
"I look at it this way: I’m paying myself," she said. "If I’m not honest at the end of the day, the only person who is losing money is me as a taxpayer."
Faldowski lives in Alexandria with her Air Force husband, a civil engineer stationed at the Pentagon, and Astro and Cosmo, two German shorthaired pointers. "We spend most of our time catering to their lifestyle," she said.
"Right now we’re renovating another house," she added. "This is our second one as a married couple, so we spend a lot of time on that. Right now about half the house is (demolished). It’s an interesting living environment."
In her spare time she said she enjoys the outdoors and photography.
"I do wildlife and landscape photography," she said. "That’s probably my biggest hobby. We went up to Glacier (National Park) last year and I photographed 24 bears (including) two grizzlies."