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HEIDELBERG, Germany — If Diane Devens has anything to say about it — and she does — your mail will be getting to you more quickly sometime soon, and lunch at the mess hall could get even tastier.

Devens, the new director of the Installation Management Command — Europe, inherited two new mandates since her spring arrival: taking over the mail system since the inactivation of the 1st Personnel Command, and assuming management of the region’s mess halls as part of transformation.

Arriving not quite three months ago, the new boss of the agency charged with providing Army families in Europe with support services is already reputed to be shaking things up.

"I am trying to focus more on performance outcomes … doing more analysis, justifying things with facts and figures," she said, "as opposed to doing things fast and based on assumptions.

"We have to be able to step up to the plate. We have to show we can do it," Devens said.

"And in my opinion, you have to do better. If you can’t do better, why even make the change?"

Devens switched jobs with former IMCOM-Europe director Russell Hall in May. She had been director of IMCOM’s northeast region, where she coordinated her work with several major commands.

Here, there is only one. "You can afford to have a much closer relationship," she said. "In some ways, it’s harder because you’re so involved in what they do."

In her initial travels throughout U.S. Army Europe, where she also served a decade ago, she’s been struck, she said, by people’s uneasiness about the future as bases close.

"There’s a lot of turbulence here," she said. There’s a lot of uncertainty ... There’s a little weariness, and I think we can help. Just talking to folks more, communicating."

Her roots with the Army are deep. The daughter of a sergeant major, she started working as an Army civilian in 1975 while getting a fine arts degree at a small liberal arts college in central Pennsylvania.

She worked at the Arts and Crafts Facility on Letterkenny Army Depot. It was a modest start. "I was GS Daffy Duck," she said.

Her boss there made a huge impression on Devens. "I’d say, ‘I’m just going to work this semester; I’m not going to go to school,’" Devens said.

"She’d say, ‘You have to go to school. If we need to rearrange your schedule, we will.’"

Devens advanced through the Morale, Welfare and Recreation program and family support ranks, also earning a master’s degree in public administration. By 2002, she was regional director of IMCOM’s northeast region and directing the management of 28 Army installations, 15,000 employees and a budget of more than $1 billion.

She would not have gotten so far without her first boss, Devens said, and she said she believes good supervisors help their employees move up — and out.

So that means that the five-year rule — in which Army civilians hired from the U.S. should spend no more than five years in a posting — will be more operative for IMCOM-Europe employees during Devens’s tenure.

"Certainly we’ll be extending people," she said. "But in general, we should be abiding by the five-year rule."

Devens said she’s been impressed by how IMCOM-Europe has been ahead of the curve, providing families of deployed soldiers with free child care, for instance, even before the "Army Family Covenant" funds came through.

She also cited the devotion that local nationals — 55 percent of her workforce, and who often have held their jobs for decades — have to the U.S. Army.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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