Human Resources Longstanding Employee Chris Houck Retires
Sitting amidst teeming piles of paperwork, Merrie (Chris) Houck sifts through 24 years of neatly organized files, memos and paperwork accumulated during her tenure at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. Houck works to transition these documents since she officially retires December 31.
A native of Brunswick, Md., Houck began her career as a clerk with the National Institutes of Health. She went on to support the U.S. Department of Energy where she worked as a personnel assistant. Houck joined USAMRMC as a personnel management specialist and worked her way up to her current position, a program advisor in human resources.
According to Houck, she provides advice and guidance to the commanding general, staff and employees on all aspects of civilian and military personnel management, to include acquisition career management.
"MRMC is the acquisition arm for Army Medicine, and it's important our staff understand rules and regulations," said Houck. "When I served as a program manager for the Army Medical Department Acquisition Workforce, I made every effort to get people into training and certifiedâ€¦ that's not a traditional learning curve," she continued.
Houck noted that her favorite part of the job was management and employee relations, "because it's always different."
"What makes me excited is that if you think you know what the day is going to bring, it's never what you expected," said Houck.
Houck stressed that her ability to remain flexible was key to her work at USAMRMC. "If you're rigid you'd never survive," she said. Houck attributes her office's success of handling one its greatest challenges - the administrative furlough and ensuing government shutdown - to her staff and the HR professionals in the USAMRMC subordinate units. "I have the best staff, I'm extremely fortunate. They all stepped up to the plate. We couldn't have done it without them," said Houck.
Houck's knack for creating a hard-working, but light hearted professional environment, contributed to her team's agility. She recalled an episode during an organization day picnic when she showed the team how to "let their hair down."
According to Houck, USAMRMC rented a dunking booth and the former Chief of Staff, Col. Jeffrey Davies, was staged in the tank. "Now, I can't throw a baseball to save my soulâ€¦so, I paid my money, walked up to that booth, pushed the button and dunked the chief of staff," she said proudly.
On a more serious note, when asked how she thinks USAMRMC has changed over the years, Houck replied that she is amazed at the progress the command has made in increasing the survival rate of burn victims. She claimed she is equally astonished at the command's work in prosthetics.
Houck explained that her disabled grandfather had two wooden prosthetic legs and that USAMRMC's work with artificial limbs touched her personally.
"As a young girl I remember seeing my grandfather put on his wooden legs and the feet where connected with metal screws. He used WD-40 to loosen them up. When I see what we're doing now in the field, well, that's been very exciting." exclaimed Houck. While at Fort Detrick she fondly watched young officers come and go, some of whom she had the opportunity to watch rise through the ranks, and even retire.
In government service for nearly 40 years, according to Houck the time has arrived to also close this chapter in her life. With an eye on the future she admits that while she doesn't have any big plans yet, she intends to spend more time with family, exercise, and with a wink, Houck adds, "play."