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JBLM celebrates historic joint basing milestone

October 20, 2011

By Mr Lorin Smith (I Corps)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Joint Base Lewis-McChord marked its historic first anniversary quietly Oct. 1, one year since the base achieved full operational capability.

The term signifies the full integration of Air Force and Army units and services into a joint base architecture. Part of that arrangement resulted in Air Force property, funds and installation-support civilian employees transitioning to the Department of the Army.

Leaders intentionally passed on formal commemoration of the milestone, said Joint Integration Office Plans Specialist Gary Marx.

"The idea is to be transparent to the customer other than seeing the terminology of JBLM," Marx said.

The year has seen the largest joint base west of the Rockies develop as a Department of Defense leader in finding efficiencies and creating best practices in everything from millions of dollars in budget savings to better organizational workflows.

The positive outcomes were the results of a great deal of effort by all of JBLM's civilian employees, said Garrison Commander Col. Thomas Brittain.

"Building the joint base has been hard, complex work, done under difficult circumstances, while supporting a war effort," Brittain said. "It's like building an airplane in flight. Regardless, our JBLM team has come through with flying colors, as they always do."

The installation support commander has spent the last year serving as the base's No. 1 cheerleader.
He received the opportunity of a lifetime, he said, to showcase JBLM to the world during last summer's Air Mobility Command Air Mobility Rodeo 2011 at McChord Field.

Dozens of nations' air forces descended on JBLM to participate in the worldwide air mobility competition. AMC Commander Gen. Raymond E. Johns Jr. said JBLM was extremely impressive and serves a model for joint basing. The base held disaster preparedness exercises prior to the Rodeo's start to test the effectiveness of joint Army and Air Force operations.

"(The Rodeo) demonstrated that we can come together to plan and execute complex installation operations without missing a beat," the infantry colonel said. "The Rodeo was really a referendum on joint basing, and the end result speaks for itself."

Another success during its inaugural year has been the major improvements of emergency response times on the installation. The Department of Emergency Services consolidated Lewis and McChord fire, medical and police services creating the Joint Base Emergency Center, an integrated one-stop shop the base can use.

Now, anyone on JBLM can dial 9-1-1 and get help while saving emergency services money, gas and resources, said Emergency Communications Center Chief Jeff Rodeman.

The garrison's Joint Integration Office spends much of its time developing, facilitating and analyzing joint base processes. Marx and the JIO have spent the past two years studying how the Army and Air Force can optimize conduct of garrison-related activities.

Now, the team is turning toward best practice or efficiency implementations within the joint base and throughout the DOD. The office asks everyone on JBLM, including Airmen and Soldiers, to let the command know any ideas aimed at saving time, money or resources.

The team submits articles about the joint base's accomplishments and findings up the chain of command for review and approval, but some best practices can be shared immediately with other South Sound military services through a joint partnership.

The Joint Base Partnership Council is made up of senior commanders from the joint base, Navy and Marine Corps. They meet quarterly to discuss how to make installation support services meet or exceed DOD standards in tough economic times.

"The senior commanders are very supportive of recognizing and assisting in these challenges," Marx said. "The base partnership council is working well together."

JBLM is one of 12 joint bases around the country and the larger of the two led by the Army. Joint basing came about after the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act mandated military bases like JBLM combine installation support functions like morale programs, logistics and personnel under one service.

Lewis-McChord has the distinction of being the only joint base to manage garrison missions for combatant commanders during real-world Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft missions as well as Army missions performed by I Corps Headquarters and Stryker brigade combat teams.

The base's plan to be a "center of change" has worked better than expected, the garrison commander said.

"JBLM is more than just a joint base; it's a living laboratory for the DOD to establish and refine best practices that aren't service-specific, and to find better and more efficient ways of supporting the most important customers in the world, the military," Brittain said.

That said, Brittain guards against the joint base staff resting on its laurels, in part by doing some preventive maintenance and services en route.

"It's also a good time to ask ourselves, 'Are we meeting the expectations of our servicemembers and Family members?' We've built the car and we've been test-driving it for about a year; now its time to look under the hood and see how things are running," Brittain said.

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