Most of the major Army and Air Force commands on Joint Base Lewis-McChord have new leaders, including myself and Col. William Percival at the JBLM Garrison Headquarters.
All summer, I Corps deployed Soldiers to exercises in Australia, Republic of Korea, and elsewhere, and conducted large-scale exercises at the Yakima Training Center. Most recently, the Army at JBLM executed a short-notice Joint Readiness Exercise moving 1,800 Stryker vehicles and pieces of equipment from the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division here to the Port of Tacoma in three days.
The brigade is now at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.
The 62nd Airlift Wing and the Air Mobility Command conducted Mobility Guardian at JBLM, an extraordinarily large and complex air mobility exercise involving 54 aircraft from 11 countries. More than 612 sorties safely flew 1,100 hours in six days airdropping more than 350 paratroopers, 299 containerized deliver system bundles and 33 heavy platforms.
All the while, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Soldiers and Airmen are deployed supporting ongoing operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and other locations around the world.
There’s a saying here at JBLM for new leaders: “Jump on the train; it doesn’t slow down; and hold on tight.” Simply put, JBLM is a very large, complex joint base, and the pace of operations for training and deployment support here, coupled with nonstop events and activities for military families is intense.
I’ve been your garrison commander since July, but I work with people who have been connected with JBLM for 15 or 20 years, or more, and I’m told the pace here never stops — slows down maybe — but never stops.
That said, I’m very proud to say that for the past three weeks we were able to apply pressure to the brakes long enough to slow down and enjoy the 100-year anniversary of Camp Lewis and JBLM.
The Camp Lewis JBLM Centennial Ceremony on Watkins Field Aug. 18 was our opportunity to pause and look back on the history of the first century for JBLM, reflecting all the way from those who built Camp Lewis to support Soldier training for World War I up through our troops who are currently deployed.
Cyrus Habib, Washington state’s lieutenant governor, summed it up when he said, “There’s a spirit of selflessness and collaboration (here) that gives me hope. Happy 100 years; I rest and sleep easy knowing that you will be here keeping watch over the next 100 years.”
Military and civic leaders gathered for a centennial reception at the Lewis Army Museum Aug. 18, and many contributed mementos for a time capsule to be opened on JBLM’s bicentennial. From photos, newspapers and the 2017 centennial ceremony script itself, JBLM leaders in 2117 will see how we celebrated JBLM’s 100th anniversary.
On Aug. 31, we reopened the Lewis Army Museum to coincide with the actual date of the Camp Lewis and JBLM centennial. Between the centennial ceremony and both Lewis Army Museum receptions, I heard military and civic leaders alike reminisce about what this base means to them and their community.
Although my family and I have only been at JBLM for six weeks, the entire Camp Lewis centennial experience made me quickly realize that JBLM isn’t just a military base — it’s bigger than that. JBLM, and the men and women who serve here, are an integral part of the greater South Puget Sound community.
All who have ever served or worked here take a great deal of pride in JBLM, and we were all very fortunate to have had the opportunity to slow down and look back before we turned the corner to look ahead to JBLM’s future.
At the Lewis Army Museum event Aug. 31, curator Heidi Pierson sealed the lid of the time capsule, symbolically closing the chapter on JBLM’s first 100 years.
On behalf of people on and off JBLM who had a role in the Camp Lewis and JBLM centennial, it was our pleasure to slow the train down long enough to enjoy this moment in time.
Here’s to our next 100 years.