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The Wisconsin Army National Guard has once again been named the National Guard’s Overall Winner in the Army Communities of Excellence program.

The Army Communities of Excellence (ACOE) Program is an Army Chief of Staff initiative to assess Army installation performance, based on measurable business outcomes and the Army Chief of Staff’s priorities. According to the Army Communities of Excellence website, the awards recognize continuous business process improvement, individual innovation, groundbreaking initiatives, and dedication to efficiency, effectiveness and customer care. These efforts directly affect the quality of support to Soldiers, families and civilian employees on Army installations.

The ACOE program uses the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Program Criteria for Program Excellence, described as an internationally recognized integrated management system, to evaluate competing installations.

“Wisconsin is a ‘role model’ organization for performance excellence — delivering value, improving performance, sharing innovation and demonstrating readiness results,” said Maj. Gen. Chuck Whittington, Jr., acting director of the Army National Guard.

“I am extremely grateful and proud of our ACOE team who dedicated time and effort to tell our story using the Baldridge criteria,” said Brig. Gen. Joni Mathews, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army. “I am even more proud of our Soldiers in the Wisconsin Army National Guard who continue to identify ways to improve our processes and stay focused on readiness, so that we can truly have all-STAR force.”

STAR stands for scalable, tailored, adaptable and ready, and it is the criteria the Wisconsin Army National Guard uses to ensure it can fulfill its obligations as Wisconsin’s first military responder and the nation’s primary combat reserve. Scalable refers to supporting the mission, from the individual Soldier to the entire organization. Tailored refers to predesignated units assigned specific mission sets, as well as specially formed units of particular skills and equipment for unique missions. Adaptable applies to the organization’s versatility in meeting unknown or unanticipated needs. Ready refers to the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s readiness requirement — trained and qualified — to carry out missions at home and abroad.

Lt. Col. Raymond (Rio) Ripberger, the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and policy, said this marks the sixth Overall Winner award the Wisconsin Army National Guard has received.

“When you factor in the mandatory two-year hiatus after a win, we’ve won the last three competitions where we were eligible,” Ripberger said. “Our sustained success is a reflection of Wisconsin’s commitment to organizational improvement over the past 15-20 years.”

The Wisconsin Army National Guard was also named ACOE Overall Winner in 2001, 2012 and 2016.

That commitment goes beyond any individual or group, he explained.

“Over the years we developed a core group of subject matter experts, and they are absolutely critical to our recent string of success,” Ripberger said. “But we also fostered a cohort of organizational leaders grounded in organizational improvement through our Total Integrated Management Systems Team. The combination of subject matter experts and organizational understanding makes us pretty good.

“It says a lot about the entire organization’s dedication to improving what we do every day.”

Over the past two decades, the Wisconsin Army National Guard has amassed a string of top finishes in the 12-month ACOE evaluations, including three Gold Division first place awards, two Gold Division second place awards, one Gold Division third place award, three Silver Division second place awards, two Silver Division third place awards, one Bronze Division third place award and a Bronze Division honorable mention.

Ripberger said the Overall Award is nice, but it’s not the real prize.

“The real benefit to the organization is in the countless incremental improvements we’ve made over the years,” he said. “Every time an organizational leader applies a technique or tool they learned to fix something in their unit, the whole organization wins. Over the course of 15 years, those small wins really add up.”