Scott Maxson has served as Executive Director since 2020, he previously served on the Board of Directors in 2018 and 2019. His background showcases a range of experience and skills, from program management, physical security and risk management, learning and development, various leadership roles and organization and planning. He served as Chair of the veterans related employee resource group at his last company and has received multiple awards from The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). He is an Army veteran having served as an armor crewman, company armorer and was an honor graduate of the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defense School while based at Fort Benning, GA. His corporate and military experience will translate into a deep level of understanding to lead an organization that supports military members, veterans, and their families. Scott holds a BS in Commerce from DePaul University, Chicago and an MBA from the University of Illinois – Chicago. The Board of Directors is excited to have Scott as our Executive Director and his leadership as we continue providing comfort and care to our military families at home and away.
We welcome Scott Maxson and look forward to our partnership.
Alan has been a Board Member since 2020 and is 3rd generation military. After spending 10 years in the US Navy as an Enlisted and Officer, he has spent 25+ years in the corporate world. His experience covers the CPG, Medical Device, and Pharmaceutical industries in Procurement, Supply Chain, Manufacturing, and Project Management. His involvement with OSOT America began two years ago as the Chair of his company’s Veteran-focused Employee Resource Group. He and his wife of 25 years have lived in Long Grove for 10 years and have 2 grown daughters, 2 dogs, and 2 cats. They are consummate moviegoers and foodies.
Justin Smitherman is the President of Smitherman & Associates Inc. located in Elburn and St. Charles. He served in the Air Force for 8 years including a tour in Iraq. He is married to Carly, also an Air Force Veteran, whom they have one daughter named Lillian. Justin has been involved with Operation Support Our Troops-America since 2014.
Alice Leong is a business leader with over 30 years’ experience in consulting and cultural transformation. The last 10+ years has been focused on leadership roles in diversity and inclusion for several large, global organizations. Through those roles, she had the opportunity to support recruiting and development of military transitioning to civilian roles and has work closely with the organizations’ Veterans affinity groups to improve their workplace experience.
Bill Kohnke is the President of BK Office Cleaning Corp. located in Lombard,IL. Previously, Bill was employed at a financial derivatives firm for 32 years.
Bill has served on the Lombard Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board of Directors. He has supported OSOT America & many other charities, and is looking forward to serving as an OSOT- America Board of Director.
Bill lives in Lombard, IL and currently serves as Treasurer (4 years) for Abbey Woods Townhome Association. He enjoys traveling, is an avid sports fan and enjoys watching the Bears, Cubs and Blackhawks.
Lt General John B. Cooper joined the OSOT-America Board in 2021. He is Senior Vice President of Global Government and Defense at AAR Corp in Wood Dale IL, a leading aviation services provider to commercial airlines and governments worldwide. John spent 35 years serving in the U.S. Air Force, culminating his career at The Pentagon as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering, and Force Protection. There, he oversaw and approved all policies for logistics, aviation maintenance, and supply chain management across the Air Force, built a $26B annual budget to support global operations, and advocated for the budget with the U.S. Congress. He held Command at the Squadron, Group, and Wing levels and participated in numerous contingency operations.
Born and raised in Chicago, IL Joe spent eight years on active duty in the Marine Corps. He started working at Unicon International as Marine Surveyor until he started his own company, Intermodal Midwest Surveyors in 2006. He is married to Valerie with two sons Joseph Jr and John, who is active duty Army. He currently resides in Lemont, IL, and enjoys playing 16″ softball in Mt Greenwood in Chicago.
Jeremy Hirst has been a Board Member since 2020. Jeremy is a former U.S. Army Ranger qualified 82nd Airborne Paratrooper and served in Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan. Since his honorable discharge in 2003, Jeremy has spent nearly two (2) decades serving in county government and in the pharmaceutical industry as a physical security, public health preparedness, emergency management, and business continuity practitioner in senior leadership roles with significant responsibilities. Additionally, he has served on local and state committees, providing value-add of creating efficient and effective guidance.
Jeremy is a Certified Emergency Manager and has formal education in Administration of Justice, Business Administration, Public Health, and Emergency Management. In his free time, Jeremy and his son are active in the outdoors and participate in Verein Deutsch-Drahtaar Group North America with their dog, Jaeger.
Wayne Marshall is an executive with over 20 years in the healthcare and consulting industries. Currently Mr. Marshall leads Health Care Service Corporations Group Markets Customer Operations area, and has provided leadership in numerous Health Plan front office organizations. His experience also includes executive positions with P&L responsibility in consulting, technology, and outsourcing. Wayne also served as an infantryman / sergeant in the United States Marine Corps Reserves from 1992-1999. In addition to supporting OSOT, Wayne is active as a volunteer youth football coach.
Carl Pedersen has spent most of his business career in Corporate Finance, and is currently a partner at Synergy General Contractors in Mt Prospect, IL. His father is a Marine, and his son was in the Army.
In 2008, Carl started his relationship with Operation Support Our Troops-America, when he organized a company-wide donation for care packages for OSOT as his son entered the Army (which took 4 SUVs to transport)! Also, at that time, he started working with and eventually became Executive Director of Little Smoke Chicago, a cigar-friendly, annual charity fundraiser event, benefiting primarily military charities, including OSOT, and continues to provide financial support to numerous charities.
Carl was raised in Westchester and has lived in Villa Park for 25 years with his wife, Sharon, and 2 “children”, Chello and Tyler, their adopted American Eskimo dogs, from the dog rescue, Chicagoland Eskie Rescue, where Sharon volunteers as Marketing Coordinator. Their children are grown, and Jeni and her family (2 grandchildren) live in Marengo, IL, while Adam and his family (3 grandchildren) opted for the warmer weather near Tampa, FL. Golf, NASCAR, Cigars, and his wife are his passions.
He is happy to continue to support Operation Support Our Troops-America more formally as a Board Member.
Don Potoczny serves as the Commandant of the Patton Academy at Farragut High School in Chicago. The program provides leadership and civics instruction to hundreds of disadvantaged students.
Colonel Potoczny served in the US Army for over thirty-four years. After retiring from a distinguished military career, Don quickly became a leader in several community organizations. He serves as the President of the DuPage Symphony Orchestra, the Director for Professional Development for Project Management Institute Chicagoland, and a senior advisor for Operation Support our Troops. He is a member of the Exchange Club of Naperville, the American Legion, and The Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Colonel Potoczny developed a reputation as one of the most innovative trainers in the U.S. Army. He has built diverse teams all over the world to solve some of our allies’ most difficult problems.
Don managed the development of a “resiliency campus” on Fort Carson, Colorado. This project coordinated the construction of a world-class gymnasium, mental health clinic, child care facility, and civilian personnel wellness center at a cost of $34 million. It provided the community with a holistic approach to wellness.
Don deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in the last year of the US occupation. Don developed a team of officers from every service – US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and Customs, and Border Patrol. This “ISF Team” maintained assessments of every Iraqi security organization. They developed training strategies based on those detailed assessments. Don and his ISF Team clearly had an enormous impact on Iraq and its future as an independent nation. Their methodical approach to developing training strategies ensured the readiness of our ally, reduced the need to increased US involvement, and save countless lives.
Don served in the Republic of Korea for ten years culminating in his selection to command the Army’s rocket artillery battalion just thirteen miles from North Korea. His highly effective training programs addressed his two priorities – unit readiness and leader development. To address readiness, he developed a system of alerts that ensured every subunit was ready to deploy with no notice. His weekly officer development program with guest speakers, hands-on practicum, book clubs, and rigorous intellectual debate became the standard for the entire division.
Don served his last two years of duty as an exchange officer with the Canadian Armed Forces. He served with the Canadian Joint Operations Command which oversees all activities of the Canadian Armed Forces.
In Ottawa, Don created a team to address Canada’s most complex and pressing challenge – the information domain. Numerous government activities endeavored to address developing threats and build capabilities. Don created the Joint Operational Effects (JOE) Team to synchronize many of these efforts. The JOE Team integrated public affairs into operation, coordinated senior leader engagements around the world, and operationalized a host of capabilities.
Don also identified challenges for staff coordination across the headquarters. The functionally-aligned staff had developed impenetrable silos with officers assigned regional responsibilities. Don recognized a transformative opportunity to increase collaboration. He developed Regional Working Groups to connect desk officers across the functional staff. He led these working groups to share perspectives and they reached a level of teamwork they never imagined possible.
Don holds a BA in Philosophy from Western Illinois University; an MS in Education from Kansas State University; and a Master of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.
Colonel Potoczny’s awards include the Canadian Meritorious Service Commendation, the Legion of Merit, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (5), the Army Commendation Medal (3), the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Army Achievement Medal (5), and others.
Colonel Potoczny and his wife, Didem, have a nine-year-old son and have settled in downtown Naperville.
Bill Rickert is a co-founder of OSOT-America and has served as Executive Director. Mr. Rickert has held multiple senior executive leadership positions, has a deep understanding of the organization, and holds a BA degree from Baldwin-Wallace College. Bill’s extensive experience with organizational leadership and change, as well as the development and growth of customer relationships will continue to benefit the work of OSOT-America.
Bill Strening has been a member of the Board of Directors of OSOT since 2008. Bill is an attorney, has been in private practice since August 2016, as well as operating a surety bond agency with his brother in Chicago. Bill was previously Assistant General Counsel with True Value Company from 2001 – 2016 and prior to 2001 served in various positions with Chicago Bridge & Iron Company between 1975 and 2000 including Assistant General Counsel from 1986 to 2000. In addition to his work with OSOT, Bill is currently President of the Parish Pastoral Council of Notre Dame Parish in Clarendon Hills as well as a Board Member of the Graue Mill Condominium I Association.
Cassandra Taylor, is a 28 year Army Veteran, born and raised in Maywood, Illinois where she attended Proviso East High School. At the end of her sophomore year, her parents relocated to Fort Madison, IA. After graduating from Fort Madison High School in 1981, she went on to study at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, IA. She later transferred to the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA in 1982 where she studied Liberal Arts. She received her Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Technical Management in 2007 from DeVry University in Addison, IL; and her Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management in 2008 from Keller Graduate School of Management in Schaumburg, IL. In 2019 she decided to go for her MBA with a concentration in Healthcare Management from Keller Graduate School of Management in Chicago, IL.
She held several positions while in the military such as Training Noncommissioned Officer, Human Resource Sergeant, Suicide Prevention Trainer, Sexual Assault and Harassment Trainer, Victim’s Advocate and Unit Prevention Leader. Her current employer is Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL where she works as an Ambulatory Analyst. She is the Founder and CEO of Top Flight Defense, Inc. a nonprofit organization to encourage and engage female veterans to impact their communities through awareness classes and empowering events. She is certified in Adult & Child CPR & 1st Aid, and Adult & Youth Mental Health 1st Aid for 3 years. She competed in the Ms. Veteran America 2016 and 2017 Competition where she made it to the top 25 contestants out of 400 other female veterans. The mission is to bring awareness to the number of homeless female veterans in the United States on any given day, as well as raise funds to educate and house them and their children. She also has performed The National Anthem at several sporting and military events, such as Chicago Sky WMBA, Professional Bull Riders, Chicago Wolves, and Chicago Bandits, Mission Bar B Que, and Monster Truck Jam. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc, Schaumburg Hoffman Estates Alumnae Chapter. And her hobbies are exercising, singing, dancing, and spending time with her grandchildren.
Her immediate family consists of two adult children, four granddaughters, four brothers, one sister, and a Chocolate Lab.
Deb started Operation Support our Troops-America in 2003 after her son joined the military in the wake of the attacks of September 11. She served as President and CEO for 13 years creating additional programs for veterans and Families of Fallen service members. She also oversaw the integration of the Veterans Assistance Program into OSOT-America. In 2015 Deb stepped down from her duties as CEO but remains in her role of guiding and overseeing the fulfillment of the mission. She also served as the CEO for Sharing Connections furniture bank in Downers Grove, IL.