By Lauren Finnegan, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Garrison Public AffairsJuly 16, 2019
JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, Wash. -- Even before arriving at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, outgoing garrison commander Col. Nicole Lucas knew this was a special place -- but she couldn't have predicated how special the people would become to her over the last two years.
Lucas will relinquish garrison command to Col. Skye Duncan in a change of command ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday on Watkins Field, JBLM Main.
"We lived in Seattle from April 1984 to October 1985 when my dad was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Seattle district engineer," Lucas said. "When I was growing up, this was one of my favorite places that we lived, so I was super excited to come back and show my family the Pacific Northwest. (When we leave) we'll miss Mount Rainier, like everyone does, but it's really been the people we'll miss the most. You sort of start the Army as this clean slate and you become who you're going to be based on the people who you interact with."
Lucas and the joint base garrison provide the mission essential support and services to units, service members, families, civilian employees, contractors and retirees -- which totals more than 290,000 people -- to enable commanders to build and maintain a trained and ready force. During her two years Lucas has interacted with thousands of people base-wide, and she and the garrison have managed some significant challenges.
"There have been a couple of big issues we've dealt with," Lucas said. "During my first year, we spent a lot of time assessing our ability to support a large-scale deployment or mobilization. We really got the installation ready for that mission again. Then in my second year, we looked really closely at our barracks and houses to assess the condition of them and make sure that our families are taken care of in the way that they're expected to be."
As a mother of three, Lucas knows firsthand how important the families' well-being is to the Army and Air Force mission. That's one of the reasons she's eager for the children's museum to open on base during the fall of 2020.
"The one project that I'm excited about which will happen after I depart is the children's museum project," Lucas said. It's the first of its kind in the Department of Defense that's a partnership between a base and a children's museum. It's unique, and it's really going to bring a neat capability to our families and kids here on JBLM."
Lucas also personally experienced the robust transition services available to service members and their families as she prepared for her own retirement. The depth of information and the many services presented impressed her greatly.
"I believe that the transition program (at JBLM) is one of the best in the DOD, and what we've been able to do by offering almost all of those opportunities to our spouses is really special," she said. "It feels like it's our obligation to make sure we set everyone up for success in that next chapter."
Lucas' next chapter is focused on spending more time with her family. As for her future professional aspirations, that's still up in the air.
"I really don't have any idea what I want to do, but I've realized that's OK," Lucas said. "I haven't been sitting around for the last 25 years saying, 'I wish I did something else.' I've really loved what I've done."