Jane Cook Retires after Three Decades of Civilian Service
After nearly 30 years of federal civilian service, Jane Cook announced that she would be retiring from her post as a regulatory scientist in the Office of Regulated Activities, under the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, at the end of April. Although she joined the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity as a clinical trials monitor in 1998, she actually began her civilian career at Fort Detrick in 1990, serving as a medical technologist in the clinical laboratory at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.
"When I joined USAMMDA more than twenty years ago, there were only two or three of us at that time in the monitor role," said Cook. "But I realized that I had the opportunity to travel throughout the United States, and the world, monitoring data for clinical trials in support of medical products for the military. As I eventually tired of the travel, I later became a regulatory scientist in support of those same medical products."
Born and raised in Norwich, New York, "famous for Norwich Aspirin and Pepto Bismol," Cook said she lived in the same house for her entire childhood – and she greatly enjoyed the opportunity to do so. To this day, she cherishes her large family of "many aunts, uncles and cousins," who continue to gather together during the holidays and for special occasions.
Perhaps in the wonderful tradition of Andy Griffith's fictional town of Mayberry, Cook describes Norwich fondly, recalling her years at Norwich High School, which happened to be the town's only secondary school. Regardless, or maybe because of this, Cook truly enjoyed her friends and her alma mater.
"High school sports were always the best activities in town while I was growing up, so I attended football and basketball games, and track meets. To support the school, I marched in the band color guard at games, and I participated in band competitions and competitive color guard," she said.
Cook was very close to many of her teachers, and admits their influence on her throughout her early academic years, as many were often very creative with their instructional techniques. However, when asked if she looked upon any as heroes, she quickly responded that her real heroes were both her mother and her grandmother.
"They taught me to be strong, independent and caring – and I am still trying to be like them," she said.
Clearly, the influence of her mother and grandmother has shaped Cook into the compassionate person she is today, as she has dedicated herself to helping others in difficult situations. Since 2011, she has served USAMMDA as a certified Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program Victim Advocate. This has been very important to her because, as she has said, "Sexual harassment and sexual assault are still more prevalent than we know, in part due to underreporting. Volunteering for this program was one way for me to help the Army community."
Upon her graduation from high school, Cook attended Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, New York, earning an Associate of Applied Sciences degree in medical technology before moving on to Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to complete her bachelor's degree. In addition to her college education, since 2009 Cook has been certified in Regulatory Affairs by the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society, the largest global organization of and for those involved with the regulation of healthcare and related products.
Interestingly, Cook said she did not intend to pursue a career in medical sciences, but instead wanted to become an airline flight attendant, so she could travel. She explained that her high school guidance counselor steered her in the direction of science – and taking that advice led her to where she is today, and where she has been for the past three decades.
"As it turns out, I loved it!" she confessed.
When asked about prior military service, Cook said she has always been a civilian employee, although many of her family members have served in the military.
"It was my brother, who was stationed at Fort Detrick, that initially brought me to the Frederick area," she said. "Currently, my granddaughter is serving in the Air Force in Washington State, I have a nephew serving in the Air Force in San Antonio, Texas, and another nephew in the Army who is stationed in Spain."
Fortunately for Cook, her relocation to the Frederick, Maryland, area brought many good things for her, over and above a long career at Fort Detrick. As she explained, Cook met her husband while serving on jury duty in the Frederick County Courthouse.
Said Cook, "After we married, my husband and I built a log house just outside of Shepherdstown, where we have lived for 25 years. I have three adult stepchildren and 10 beautiful grandchildren, ranging in ages from 6 years to 24 years. All but two live nearby in Maryland."
Looking ahead towards her retirement, and the additional free time she now will have, having most of her children and grandchildren close by will certainly benefit Cook and her husband. However, she said they both would like to travel more often, "to visit family and friends, and all of the states that I have not yet seen."
"My husband is a big fan of blues music, so we attend a few festivals each year," she added. "We will continue maintenance and improvements on our home and property, and volunteer in our church and the community as well."
Her words certainly do stir up those idyllic images of Mayberry, USA – of quiet evenings relaxing on the front porch, chatting with loved ones, and thinking about nothing except what you plan to do the next day. Yes, after nearly three decades of faithful service to your country, its military, and your fellow citizens, perhaps this is what retirement should be.
As she winds down her civilian career, Cook should feel very confident that her friends and fellow team members wish her all the best in the years to come, although she will be missed. Many are probably jealous, wishing they could be in her shoes, with so many roads to travel and perhaps all the time in the world.
But Cook remains humble, and thankful – perhaps much like both her mother and grandmother, whom she has idolized since childhood. And perhaps the ones who may be most proud of who Jane Cook is today.
"I would like to thank EVERYONE for supporting my career over the years," she said. "This small town girl with no big plans was blessed with opportunities for further education, travel to six continents, lifelong influences and friends, and to serve her country as a U.S. Army Civilian."
On behalf of the entire USAMMDA team, may you enjoy many years of blissful retirement, and thank you for your unwavering dedication to the organization and our nation – the mission could not be accomplished without people like you.