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Corporate executive offers leadership insights for Adjutant General Week

Northwest Guardian

Published: 02:48PM May 1st, 2014

David Niekerk had a few uplifting words for Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s adjutants general April 24.

The former vice president of human resources for Amazon knew just how to phrase things, too. Before entering the civilian world, he was an AG major in the Army.

“It’s not just human resources,” Niekerk, who still works at Amazon, said. “It’s learning to add human resourcefulness.”

First Corps invited Niekerk to speak as part of Adjutant General Week at JBLM.

Niekerk was the driving force behind creating a unique award structure for AG Soldiers, tracing the class back to Horatio Gates, George Washington’s right-hand general in 1775. Gates was the first AG of the Army and the second winner of the Congressional Gold Medal.

A replica of that original gold medal now serves as the model for a new AG award, the Order of Horatio Gates, Niekerk said. Displaying that human resourcefulness, he contacted the U.S. Mint and got them to recast the original Congressional Gold Medals. The Order of Horatio Gates, both Gold and Bronze, is currently awarded by the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association for distinguished or extraordinary service.

“We did all that, which had never been done before, and the thought was, ‘Will this help us professionally?’ We didn’t know,” Niekerk said. “But I said, if we build something really neat, that has ties back to our history and the key role of the AG, which is to help the commanding officers, (then) we’ve got a better chance than most.”

Niekerk said that in the modern Army, AG professionals touch the lives of Soldiers and their families every single day. That means it’s important for AG Soldiers to give clear feedback to commanders, plainly state a situation and then explain how to fix it.

“It’s the learning that you bring that makes the difference,” Niekerk said.