FORT LEWIS, Wash. - A historic day for the major military installations in the South Puget Sound should pass Feb. 1 without much fanfare; from that date, the long-awaited Joint Base Lewis-McChord will be a reality.

"We sincerely believe that this is a natural step, the right thing to do," said Col. Thomas H. Brittain, the Fort Lewis U.S. Army Garrison commander who on that day will uncase the colors to assume command of the joint base.

"We've served side-by-side with the Air Force around the world - and now we are going to live and work together at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. In the process, we're going to become more efficient and effective. We absolutely think that the sum is going to be greater than the parts."

Colonel Kenny Weldon, the Air Force officer who commands 62nd Mission Support Group at McChord Air Force Base, will become the JBLM deputy commander on the same day.

In its scale, Joint Base Lewis-McChord is the most complex and difficult of the Army-led consolidations under the direction of the Department of Defense's Base Realignment and Closure Commission, Brittain said. Eleven other installations are in various stages of the same process.

Hundreds of Airmen, Soldiers, Department-of-the-Army and contract civilians have made up the staffs, task forces, committees and working groups laboring more than four years to work out countless JBLM details, but a measure of success will be the understated nature of its rollout. By design, few of those living or working on the new joint base will notice any change at all.

"If we do this right, we're going to inform our customers on 1 February that we've become a joint base, but it's going to be anticlimactic to them," Brittain said. "The only things they should experience are sign changes, some different visual components around the new joint base, but the services and the support that they're provided should be at a consistent level."

Brittain and his command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew D. Barnes, will case the Army garrison's colors and uncase those of DOD's newest joint base at 10 a.m., Feb. 1, at JBLM Headquarters, Building 1010, at the intersection of Liggett and Kaufman avenues. Information briefings at Carey Theater at 11 a.m. and McChord Theater at 1:30 p.m. will apprise employees, civilian and uniformed, of changes, new requirements and answer questions from the internal workforce.

Brittain stressed that the Initial Operational Capability marked by the Feb. 1 milestone represents the beginning, rather than the end of a three-phased transition process.

From that date, he as joint base commander is responsible to deliver installation services to all DOD customers on the joint base. The first and third two-month phases will gear up and wind down transitional activities. They will flank a more substantive, four-month phase from April 1 through July 31, during which the most complex organizations will consolidate.

"Our approach was that we're going to do the relatively easy things in Phase 1," Brittain said, "(including) the smaller organizations and some components of the larger ones. Then we get a little bit more complex and we learn from our mistakes as we move forward."

The process will culminate Oct. 1 in achievement of Full Operational Capability, which marks the completion of all remaining consolidations.

All incremental transitions of authority and resourcing will be finalized by FOC.

The Feb. 1 ceremony also represents moving day for the garrison headquarters, which not only leaves its offices in I Corps Headquarters in Building 2025, but also its temporary home during recent renovations in Building 2026. The new joint-base headquarters will overwatch an intersection that links approaches to North Fort, now called JBLM North, main post, now JBLM Main, and the DuPont Gate. McChord Air Force Base will be known as JBLM McChord Field.

"We want to express gratitude to Cadet Command and the ROTC folks who had possession of Building 1010 for a long period of time," Brittain said. "They were very gracious and helpful in that process. They gave it up because that was the right building for our new joint base headquarters."

The headquarters building will feature displays that pay homage to the histories of the Army and Air Force garrisons and installations, Camp Lewis and McChord Field.

"Our intent is to turn the joint base headquarters into a heritage site that preserves and respects the lineage of the two installations and the two service organizations," Brittain said. "We want it to be a showcase for the new joint base to represent the heraldry of the Army's and Air Force's unique missions."

New names

With the arrival Feb. 1 of Initial Operational Capability of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the names of the three primary areas of the installation officially change, also. Main Post becomes JBLM Main, North Fort becomes JBLM North and McChord Air Force Base will be know as JBLM McChord Field.

Don Kramer is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.

Page last updated Fri January 22nd, 2010 at 16:49