When base realignment and closure language for creating joint bases went out in 2005, a civil engineer officer at Pacific Air Force headquarters began work to establish a combined service approach for bases in Alaska, Hawaii and Guam.
That service member turned out to be Col. Valerie Hasberry, a perfect fit as the second deputy commander of Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
I got to see the beginning of the birthing process for joint basing, Hasberry said. You dont get to do that a lot in a military career, see something from the beginning to when its operational.
As she prepared to leave the installation she has called home for two years, Hasberry reflected on her tenure at JBLM, her Air Force career and whats most important to her the people shes met and worked with, inside and outside of the gates.
Before she took over as JBLM deputy commander, Hasberry had heard the bases reputation for setting standards and leading the way. She knew her predecessor, Col. Jerry K. Weldon II, who had filled her in on the rewards and challenges of holding a leadership role at the largest military installation on the West Coast.
One of those challenges, Hasberry learned, was the stubborn misconception among a small portion of the community that joint basing was an attempt to do away with service cultures, especially those belonging to the smaller supporting service on the joint base which at JBLM was the Air Force.
That was never the intent of joint basing. It was always about gaining efficiencies and eliminating redundancies by combining multiple military installations, Hasberry said. Its about how we support the mission, whether its Army or Air Force, Navy or Marines. Were here to provide outstanding support to everyone on this installation and it doesnt matter the uniform.
At JBLM, an Air Force colonel will always hold the deputy commander position to provide the Air Force point of view, Hasberry said. The senior Air Force officer acts as a true deputy, even filling traditional Army roles to augment the base commander.
The JBLM deputy commander also commands the 627th Air Base Group, an Air Force unit comprised of active military squadrons that support installation services. We still deploy. We have traditional Air Force functions, like training and missions, Hasberry said.
Those functions include security for Air Mobility Command, weapons training, management of the honor guard and oversight of casualty and mortuary. But as a result of joint basing, about 85 percent of the Airmen of 627th ABG are also embedded in the Army organizational structure to provide installation support working in public works, fire and emergency services, dining facilities, and equal opportunity and emergency management departments.
Direction of installation support played an integral role in a January 2012 snow and ice storm, something Hasberry said she will always remember about JBLM for personal and professional reasons. The weather event crippled the region and left most of JBLM without power. Cleanup and restorations of base roads, training areas and other facilities lasted for months, but Hasberry said it provided an opportunity to improve communication across the installation.
Another indication of the enhanced relationship among members of the joint base community came during the unique multi-service joint base change of command in 2012, welcoming JBLM Commander Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr. to replace Col. Thomas Brittain. For the first time, formations of Airmen, Soldiers and Army civilians stood in formation on the parade ground, directed by an Air Force commander of troops.
When we first proposed that, we were told we couldnt do it, Hasberry said. Were a joint base. All of those individuals work together to support the installation. Why shouldnt a change of command reflect that?
The ceremony had such far-reaching impact that it was played for a gathering of general officers at the Pentagon.
Now, for the third time in her 23-year military career, Hasberry returns to the Pentagon. She said she hopes her legacy at JBLM will be the memory of her commitment to improving support and services across the installation.
Its amazing what people can accomplish if you put your trust in them, she said. At JBLM, there are Airmen winning Army-level awards, and an Army civilian received an Air Mobility Command civilian award. That speaks to the caliber of people who are out there doing great things. Its what makes you realize why you wear a uniform.