Moving for the Military

Posted: February 1, 2020, 12:00 am

WEC member Coleman advocates for soldiers in many ways

Dothan resident and Wiregrass Electric Cooperative member Jeff Coleman stands in front of a helicopter.

Jeff Coleman’s numerous accolades and life experiences give him a unique perspective on the U.S. Army.

“My first recollections are on the back of a moving van going through the Ozark gate at Fort Rucker and really the fun that I had moving these patriots and families,” says Coleman, president and CEO of Coleman Worldwide Moving. “My family has been moving the military for over 50 years. We’re a 105-year-old company, so as a young boy growing up in the business, I had a lot of good experiences at Fort Rucker relocating the U.S. military all over the Wiregrass, and really all over the world.”

Those early memories have translated into a career of service to military personnel for Dothan’s Coleman — and not just in business. Coleman recently concluded a two-year stint as a civilian aide to the secretary of the Army, or CASA. He was one of 118 people nationwide who might occupy that role at any one time.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my term as the CASA and what I did to help in recruiting for the Soldier for Life program and also for our active duty, our Army Reserve, and our U.S. National Guard components,” he says.

A High Honor

Local businessman Jeff Coleman (far left) stands with members of Ozarkbased Friends of Army Aviation following a flight in a UH-1 Huey helicopter.

Each U.S. president appoints a secretary of the Army to handle “the recruitment, organization, training, equipping and care” of active-duty, Army Reserve, and U.S. National Guard soldiers, as well as Department of Army civilians, according to the U.S. Army’s official website. CASAs aid in that process, providing at least one voice from each state, the District of Columbia and the five U.S. territories to inform the secretary of the Army about any regional concerns or desires.

The Army awards two CASA positions to Alabama — one for northern Alabama and one for southern Alabama. When Dothan’s Mack Dove concluded his 10th and final permitted year as a CASA in 2017, he recommended Coleman for the position based on the assistance Coleman had previously provided the military.

“When I was civilian aide to the secretary of the Army, I was the epitome of civilian, but I had a lot of touchpoints with the military all my life,” Coleman says. “I have been through it all my life — have had friends in the service, in the Army. Then in my business career, I’ve been moving them for 35-plus years. I’ve touched the Army all over the world. I’ve loved our soldiers and what they mean for our community.”

Coleman, a Wiregrass Electric Cooperative member, says his main responsibility in the CASA role was to aid in recruitment for the active-duty component of the Army as well as the Army Reserves and the U.S National Guard.

“We want to get the best and the brightest into our volunteer Army,” Coleman says. “We’ve got to continue to promote that the United States Army is an incredible career — excellent for youth to join to be a part of the strongest and most powerful force in the world.”

“Wiregrass Electric supports our troops, and Jeff ’s advocacy for them as a civilian aide to the secretary of the Army and through other avenues exemplifies the cooperative’s spirit,” says Brad Kimbro, WEC’s chief operating officer.

Additional advocacy

Jeff Coleman, a staunch proponent of the military, readies for a flight in a UH-1 Huey helicopter the U.S. Army used for decades.

While his business and personal experiences aided in Coleman’s selection to the CASA role, his involvement with Friends of Fort Rucker likely served as the true catalyst. Coleman served 15 years on the board of FOFR — a coalition of Wiregrass city, county, community, and business leaders that assists in the preservation and advancement of Fort Rucker.

Ozark Mayor Bob Bunting, a retired Army colonel, helped form FOFR when Congress considered several rounds of Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, decisions in the 1990s and 2000s. Initiatives mandated under BRAC could result in the expansion of training at an installation, but they also might force reductions or outright closures in cost-saving maneuvers.

Bunting says Fort Rucker officials cannot comment on BRAC deliberations unless congressional leaders and other decision-makers request their thoughts. Citizens can relay any of the Fort Rucker leaders’ concerns or desires through discussions with their own congressional representatives, a process FOFR bolsters. Bunting says Coleman’s business acumen and leadership in several other roles, including as a past Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce board chairman and Business Council of Alabama board chairman, provided great insight to FOFR. That only increased when Coleman served as a CASA.

“As a CASA, he could do more,” Bunting says. “When you have the secretary of the Army’s ear, you can voice those concerns. You’re also privy to a lot of information. He was a perfect fit. He was very loyal to attend the meetings.”

Even though Coleman no longer serves as a board member, he continues to support FOFR’s efforts in other ways and says he treasures FOFR’s accomplishments and his service to the organization.

“That’s been a successful venture,” Coleman says. “I’m happy that our communities have come together to continue to help the United States Army strengthen Fort Rucker. I really was blessed to be a part of that group, and it’s been a rewarding experience to be with the mayors and our county councilmen and all the people who are friends of Army aviation."

Coleman Serves More Than Just the Military

Dothan resident and Wiregrass Electric Cooperative member Jeff Coleman stands in front of a UH-1 Huey helicopter at Ozark Airport-Blackwell Field.

Though Jeff Coleman’s career and community advocacy can be heavily linked to supporting the military, the businessman remains active in other arenas.

“It’s community leaders like Jeff who make the Wiregrass the great place that it is,” Wiregrass Electric Cooperative Chief Operating Officer Brad Kimbro says. “We are so appreciative of what Jeff has been able to do in terms of military support, in terms of the initiatives he accomplished through the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce, the Dothan Tuesday Rotary Club, and the Coleman Center for Early Learning and Family Enrichment.”

The Coleman Center for Early Learning and Family Enrichment, which opened this fall on the Troy University Dothan campus, provides First Class Pre-K program classes and other educational opportunities for children 4 years old or younger. It is named for Jeff’s father, James, and represents the Coleman family’s commitment to education.

Additionally, Jeff Coleman served a nine-year term on the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, including two years as chairman.

Kimbro says Coleman’s business also makes a large impact on the Wiregrass. The Midland City-based company employs more than 2,500 people worldwide, about 250 of those locally.

“We’re very pleased to call him a member, and we appreciate his support of the cooperative,” Kimbro says.

In return, Coleman appreciates being part of WEC and values the organization’s efforts to expand broadband internet services into rural Southeast Alabama.

“I think it’s very important when you look at what Wiregrass Electric Cooperative does to help rural Alabama with their broadband,” Coleman says. “Very, very important for economic development, for our farmers, for all those great citizens who live in rural Alabama to get connected to the internet with speed that will allow them to do a lot of things online. I am thankful to the co-op for what they do for economic development and keeping the power on.”