Joint Base Lewis-McChord senior leaders and Airmen from the 627th Air Base Group met with U.S. Air Force Air Expeditionary Center Commander Maj. Gen. Rick Martin during a two-day visit to the installation Nov. 6 and 7. During the visit, Martin met a number of Airmen who have taken part in JBLMs successes and heard their perspectives on living and working on a joint base team.
Martin and Chief Master Sgt. Pete Stone, Expeditionary Center command chief, received a mission brief from JBLM Commander Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr. and JBLM Deputy Commander Col. Anthony Davit, who also serves as the 627th ABG commander. The 627th ABG falls under administrative control of the Air Expeditionary Center located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., where the Air Force is the lead service at that joint base.
The mission brief detailed JBLMs unique command structure at the top of the largest operational joint base in the Department of Defense as measured by both population and space. At every other joint base in DOD, command of the installation falls under a host unit assigned there. Though the senior commander at JBLM is the I Corps commanding general, Lt, Gen. Robert Brown, an Army colonel Hodges is the installation commander. Army general officers who command Soldiers include Brown, Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, 7th Infantry Division, and Brig. Gen. Kurt Ryan, 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command. The senior Air Force mission commander who commands Airmen is Col. David Kumishiro , 62nd Airlift Wing.
I am the unelected mayor of JBLM and Brown and (62nd AW commander Col. David) Kumishiro are my two city council members, Hodges told Martin. They are different ranks, but equal in my responsibility to support them.
Some of that support comes from the 627th ABG, who embeds Airmen into installation customer service, logistics and emergency management roles while simultaneously retaining certain functions that arent supporting the joint base, including training Airmen for deployments. At JBLM, the Air Force is the supported service, but provides many of the supporting functions, Davit said.
All the people providing support are Airmen deployable Airmen so we have to retain that operational test and evaluation piece, Davit said.
The service integration at JBLM is also different from other joint bases, Davit said, in that Soldiers and Airmen work together to carry out the support mission. At Virginias Joint Base Langley-Eustis, for example, the services are integrated at the command level but there are mission support groups for each branch. Hodges said the service integration at JBLM was set up to ensure decisions were made fairly in the interests of both the Army and the Air Force. The system isnt perfect, he said, but it works.
JBLM was set up the way it was as a way to guarantee equities were being met. In the early days of joint basing there was not a lot of trust, Hodges said.
Todays young Soldiers and Airmen dont recognize what Hodges called the previous angst between the Army and Air Force military cultures since theyve been fighting two wars side by side for more than a decade. Martin agreed, stating when service members deploy, they are almost always in a joint environment.
Other challenges JBLM faces include a 20 percent cut in the fiscal year 2014 budget, which Davit called getting cut to the bone across the military spectrum. At an all-call with the entire 627th ABG at the McChord Theater to foster personal feedback, Martin and Stone warned Airmen that sequestration is not going away and they need to be prepared to embrace change.
Its going to be tough, but when we come out on the other side, were still going to be the best Air Force in the world, Stone said to the packed theater. Were being innovative and finding new ways to meet those challenges. What makes a strong joint force is our strong services. Its about the mission. Its about the team and working together.
Davit also asked Martin to reevaluate the involvement of Airmen in JBLMs Veterans in Piping apprenticeship program, offering service members who are transitioning out of the military free education and training in trades like plumbing, pipe fitting, welding, refrigeration and heating and air conditioning. Technicalities in Air Force transitional leave policies effectively deny program spaces to Airmen. Martin agreed to examine the policy and consider signing a new one.
During his visit, Martin toured Lewis Norths Warrior Zone and the recently renovated McChord Field barracks. As the vice commander of the 62nd Airlift Wing from 2002 to 2005, Martin said he remembered the barracks in an entirely different condition. He commended JBLM housing officials for strengthening the quality of life of Airmen on McChord Field.
Its essential to take care of Airmen so we can retain our good people, Martin said.
Regardless of the challenges of joint basing, Martin commended JBLMs senior leadership for a mostly seamless integration of Army and Air Force military cultures.
Whats most important is the teamwork and partnerships developed and the blending of cultures. Its neat to see how far the joint base concept has come, Martin said. There are a number of initiatives at JBLM that are benchmark programs, and the future is bright.