GIG HARBOR, Wash. - The Joint Base Lewis-McChord garrison commander served as the keynote speaker Jan. 25 at the weekly Public Affairs Forum held by the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce at the Cottesmore of Life Care facility in Gig Harbor.Col. Nicole M. Lucas spoke to chamber members about the joint military base - the fourth largest in the United States - and the importance of the partnerships the base has with the communities that encircle the base."There is not an installation that has such a community connection like we have here in this part of the country," said Lucas. "The way that we interact with the community is dependent on all of our partnerships."She pointed out that a lot of what goes on inside JBLM is able to be done because of the community connections with towns like Gig Harbor."It's not just about what's going on inside the fence line at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but rather we're able to do what we do because of those connections within the community," Lucas said.Lucas also discussed the base's reaction to the recent Amtrak train derailment just outside the base, how soldiers and airmen from the base reacted, and the positive impact joint training between JBLM and the community played in their response."It was really amazing to be able to watch how the community and installation were able to respond ... because of the [joint] training they do together," Lucas said.Scheduled construction on base that is expected to impact the communities surrounding JBLM was also discussed, as well as Madigan Army Medical Center and how it positively affects the area."The other thing that makes JBLM so special is the size and support that Madigan Army Medical Center can provide for the region," Lucas said, elaborating on some of the beneficial technologies and programs specific to Madigan.Lucas also spoke about the commitment the base has to balancing its military readiness alongside maintaining the vast prairielands it occupies."JBLM is on a lot of [the last of] what was the original prairie, and we fulfill our obligations there, but are there things that we can do more of with the communities to protect species and land, not just inside JBLM's fences, but outside as well," Lucas said. "We're also partnered with the community to make sure that there's other efforts that protect what needs to be protected here, and then build on those programs."Lucas also talked about the economic impact JBLM has in the local area. She noted that 60% of the population that works on JBLM lives outside the base in communities like Gig Harbor. Lucas also stated that last year businesses in Washington State did more than $7 billion of work for the Defense Department, and that JBLM is the one of the state's largest employers, second only to state government and Boeing."So, yes, JBLM is a big economic driver for the South Sound area and the state," Lucas said.Following her remarks, Lucas answered questions from the audience which included queries about the possibility of upcoming deployments, base population, and traffic flow around the base.Since March 2000, Joint Base Lewis-McChord units have partnered with Puget Sound communities in an effort to build a positive community partnership. By partnering with local communities, JBLM hopes to increase interaction between the base and the local populace, enhance a better understanding of today's Army and Air Force, and develop and maintain strong and positive community partnerships.For more news from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, visit www.lewis-mcchord.army.mil or www.facebook.com/JBLewisMcChord.