FORT LEWIS, Wash. - The screeching sound coming from McChord Air Force Base last week might have been the rubber from tires of something other than a C-17 Globemaster aircraft meeting the tarmac.

The members of joint Army and Air Force working groups met July 8 for the effective, if not official, passing of responsibility for the Joint Basing planning process to them.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord will be one of 12 joint bases that result from the merging of what is currently 26 installations among all military services.

In one of a withering number of metaphors flying around the meeting, the groups were proclaimed by many speakers as "where the rubber meets the road," Gary Richards, lead planner for the Fort Lewis Plans, Analysis and Integration Office among those announcing the sentiment.

The working groups have slightly more than a year, until September 2009, to develop their road maps that will join to form a memorandum of agreement with an eye on January 2010 as the date for achieving Initial Operating Capability.

The Defense Department road map arrived Jan. 22 in the form of Joint Base Implementation Guidance that allowed Army, Air Force and civilian planners to roll up their sleeves and begin meaningful work. That general road map was augmented by essential supplemental guidance that arrived in April.

The supplemental guidance hangs more meat on the bones of the JBIG, and allows the working groups to develop essential task lists for each of 49 major functions and 128 sub-functions that need to be performed at a joint base, ones that will require support.

"The key step in today's meeting is we're passing the baton to the functional working groups now so that you can take all of this information and start doing the task analysis to start developing the metrics that will lead towards the implementation of an MOA," Richards said.

The memorandum will represent the collection of agreements that determine how the services will together run day-to-day support and operations functions on the joint base created from Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base.

As an antecedent to the meeting last week, more than 200 Department of Defense installation representatives attended the first Joint Base Implementation Review Conference held at Fort Lewis' American Lake Community Center June 23 to 27.

"In truth it is up to us in this room here to figure that out," deputy Fort Lewis garrison commander Tom Knight said. "This is where the sausage is going to get made. I went to the conference and came away convinced that OSD and the service components have done their part.

"The rest is up to us. There's not a whole lot of help coming on this one," he said. "What we do between now and the IOC point in January of 2010 is really going to be necessary at this level to make this work."

Head Air Force Joint Base planner Col. Shane Hershman encouraged the groups to welcome their responsibility.

"You're going to be writing history as we get to IOC," Hershman said. "It's going to take each one of you as a leader to make this work. (If the working groups didn't take charge of the next phase) OSD would be writing the MOA for us and we'd be stuck with it."

The attendees started at the end of the morning meeting, breaking into groups to arrange future planning sessions.

Don Kramer is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian