Lathan Newkirk is the new WSMR ASAP Prevention and Employee Assistance Program Coordinator.
What is your role at ASAP?
I have a dual role here at the ASAP office. As the Prevention Coordinator, I will be providing substance abuse education and prevention training to Soldiers, civilians, Family Members, and other stakeholder’s who are affiliated with the installation with the goal of helping people make informed decisions about the use of legal substances such as alcohol, prescription drugs, and tobacco products while abstaining completely from illicit drug use.
As the Employee Assistance Program Coordinator, I will be helping our DoD civilians adjust to issues in their lives that are impacting job performance and referring them to agencies dedicated to maximizing their health and getting them back on track. This applies to military family members as well.
Where are you coming from (last employment)?
I am coming from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, home of the 82nd Airborne and Special Operations troops as well as the greatest basketball program on the planet, the North Carolina Tar Heels!
I am relatively new to civil service. I retired 3 years ago after serving 22 years active duty in the United States Army as a Mental Health Specialist and Career Recruiter. Within the realm of behavioral sciences, I have worked as a Child and Adolescent Psychometrist, Research Assistant, Neuropsychometrist, Addictions Counselor, and Behavioral Health Department Manager. Shortly after 911, I was selected for recruiting duty and served as a Detailed Recruiter, Station Manager, Master Trainer, and Investigative Team Member. After retirement, I worked as an Admissions Counselor at a college in Louisville, Kentucky before running my own personal training company for a year.
Where are you from and where is home for you?
I am from the town of Burgaw, North Carolina, located just north of Wilmington, North Carolina. Saying a place is home for me is a difficult thing because I am still trying to figure it out. Having great assignments during my military career has derailed the notion of calling any place home.
Who are your family members?
My family members are my wife Anna and my two sons Jalen and Sammy. I am the oldest of five and have two younger brothers and sisters. I have a stepbrother as well.
What did you aspire to be when you were young?
When I was young I aspired to be a scientist. I thought wearing a lab coat and working with high tech equipment creating gadgets looked so cool! Then came the realization that I was challenged mathematically so I had to alter my course.
What led you to civilian service?
I have always loved being a Soldier, telling the Army Story, and talking to people. One of my former colleagues from my days as a recruiter mentioned that North Carolina State University needed a Recruiting Operations Officer for the ROTC battalion. I felt it was a way for me to reconnect with the Army and use all the skills that I had learned, so I applied and got the position.
Do you have any stories you would like to share from your time in civilian service?
I have one that really unnerved me. I was about two months into one of my assignment when one of my co-workers quit speaking to me. It was around Christmas time and because we were all taking time off I didn’t realize that he was seriously angry with me until after we returned from the holidays. He was in the break room and I asked him for some documentation I needed for an inspection and he wouldn’t answer. I asked him a couple of more times and he wouldn’t answer me. Finally he turned around and said that he was no longer speaking to me and legally he didn’t have to. If I needed something he told me I had to ask our branch chief to relay the message to him and he would do it. I was shocked because I had never had anyone respond to me that way in a work setting. He was one of my assistant prevention coordinators, so it made the work environment difficult, to say the least. My supervisor stepped in and after he talked to him, he realized that he had his time frame seriously mixed up and that I had not even been hired at the office when the incident occurred that he was angry about. He apologized and blamed it on stress and medications. This incident was a great training tool for me to understand the differences in how people respond to adversity and stress and how I can help teach others healthier ways to address challenges that we all face on a daily basis.
What have you learned from previous leadership roles?
Having held leadership positions in the Army throughout my career has been paramount in helping me with life’s challenges. The most important thing I have learned is that if you treat others the way that you want to be treated, you will rarely have conflict in your personal and professional life because others will return the favor. As a leader in a work environment, if you get to know your employees, attend to their needs, keep them informed, show them respect and set the example they more than likely will emulate your behavior and perform their duties at a high level. This has worked for me at every level of leadership from running a small clinic to a health department and from serving in a two-man recruiting station to managing the Army’s 2nd largest production station. If you do these things with your family and friends you will get the same outcome as well.
Is there anyone who helped guide you to where you are today?
There is no one person who has helped guide me to where I am today. I was blessed to have served with great leaders throughout my career and I have learned from all of them.
What do you and your family like to do for fun?
As a family we like to travel and explore new places. We plan on visiting several of the parks, museums and recreational areas in New Mexico as well as traveling to places in Texas, Arizona and California.
What do you like to do for fun?
Anything I can do to be active. I am coming off some injuries and finally have a clean bill of health to begin weight training, playing sports, and most other physical activities. I enjoy watching and attending sporting events as well.
What are your priorities in your new position?
My priorities in my new position are to get to know as many people as I can here on the installation and offer them my assistance as an ASAP Specialist. This is a much smaller installation than Fort Bragg so I feel I can reach out to a lot more people and be more effective.
What do you hope to accomplish during your time here at WSMR?
What I would like to accomplish during my time here is to ensure that everyone affiliated with the installation knows not only about the dangers of substance abuse, but about resources that we can offer them to improve their overall quality of life. If a person is emotionally, physically, and spiritually fit, they are well equipped to overcome adversities that we all face from time to time. For Soldiers and Family Members it has a positive impact on their deployment readiness and as civilians if helps us to provide them with the support that they so well deserve.