By Michael Norris, Pentagram Assistant Editor July 29, 2013
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - After assuming command in late June, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, commander of Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and the Military District of Washington, sat down for a get-acquainted meeting with Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall officials at command headquarters on the Fort Myer portion of JBM-HH July 22. Foregoing a Power Point briefing, the general shook hands with joint base leaders and directorate heads in the Bldg. 59 conference room. Attending officials went around the table introducing themselves and providing thumbnail sketches of their backgrounds and duties.
While this was Buchanan's first formal visit with JBM-HH staff, he joked about having "ambushed" joint base personnel during an impromptu visit the previous Friday.
"We really want you to see the lay of the land," said JBM-HH Commander Col. Fern O. Sumpter in welcoming the general, before Buchanan initiated discussions on various issues.
Several individuals, including JBM-HH Deputy Commander Marine Lt. Col. Jennifer Blair, spoke about how JBM-HH "hadn't seen all the benefits of joint basing," that other installations have experienced.
Headquarters and Service Battalion, Headquarters Marine Corps, Henderson Hall Commanding Officer Col. Anthony S. Barnes, who noted he'd only assumed command himself two weeks previously, said that while snow removal contracts and building maintenance had become integrated, there were still separate family programs for the Army and Marines with each service having its own exchange facility.
"We need to leverage [both services] for the benefit of the troops," Buchanan said, adding, "I'm all about common sense."
As directorate heads went around the room citing issues Buchanan should be aware of, the general emphasized that his level of involvement was contingent upon how helpful he could be in a given situation, whether it was sitting in on a particular board meeting or being copied-in on communications.
"My major job is to help you all; to help you solve problems, not cause them," he emphasized. "If you want me involved, if you think it will be beneficial, I'll come," he added.
The half hour conference room meeting was followed by a bus tour of the joint base, with leaders and directors taking turns sharing a bench seat with the general, where they briefed him on initiatives and projects prior to stops at affected facilities.
The bus stopped at the Cody Child Development Center, the Directorate of Emergency Services, and an old Marine barracks site, making a half dozen stops across base.
Lt. Col. Macedonio Molina, DES director, had a portable shooting range, mobile command unit, community policing bicycles and other equipment on display in the parking lot between DES headquarters and the Fort Myer Fitness Center for the general to view.
On a walking tour through the CDC, Buchanan noticed a bulletin board with photos of base leaders interacting with children. "Look," he said, catching the eye of JBM-HH Command Sgt. Maj. Earlene Lavender and pointing to a picture of her on the wall, "It's the sergeant major doing storytelling!"
JBM-HH Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Director Denise James briefed the general about CDC programs while walking down center corridors with him. "This will give you a feel for the environment and the facility," James said, gesturing to activity rooms on one side and the gymnasium on the other.
"Just by the aesthetics of the place you can see why parents are trying to get their kids into the facility," Sumpter added.
On the Henderson Hall side of the joint base, Barnes and Buchanan got out of the bus at Southgate Road and the colonel showed the general the proximity of two gates and questioned the feasibility of keeping both open.
"I don't know it if makes sense to have two gates," Barnes said. "Still, we want to always have the ability to open the [secondary] gate and have guys [come in to] train."
"He's a people- and soldier-oriented commander. He believes in taking care of the people he supports," Lavender said, providing her impressions of the general at the conclusion of the tour. "He has had a lot thrown at him recently. It was good of him to come and visit us."