FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Army leaders at all levels are focusing on, and applying energy and resources to, improving the quality of life for Soldiers and families assigned to Alaska. A group of such leaders visited Fort Wainwright and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson last week to learn and see firsthand some early results of this integrated effort and to identify ways to further accelerate progress.
J. Randall Robinson, the senior civilian and Executive Deputy to the Commanding General of U.S. Army Installation Management Command, was joined on the trip by Paul Burk, IMCOM Director of Army Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation (G9). The two were accompanied by Erika R. Slaton, DoD’s Director of Military Community Support Programs and Military Community and Family Policy.
The leaders reviewed progress on myriad enhancements at Fort Wainwright and JBER, gaining a personal respect for the unique challenges and opportunities of military life in Alaska.
IMCOM is on point for the Army for many of these improvements in areas as diverse as childcare, lodging, religious services, fitness and recreation, security, and family housing. As the Army’s lead for infrastructure management, IMCOM senior leaders were particularly interested in the 16 barracks that will be renovated over the next 10 years and the three new ones scheduled for construction during that same period.
They also visited ongoing construction of a new Community Activity Center and Aquatics Center, as well as the recently re-opened ski lodge at Fort Wainwright.
“A lot of energy is being applied to improving our quality-of-life programs, services and facilities for Soldiers and Families in Alaska,” said Robinson. “Being here, meeting the people, hearing their perspectives, walking the ground and seeing things with our own eyes is extremely enlightening. Maj. Gen. Eifler’s leadership, advocacy and vision are most respect worthy. This visit will help us further accelerate many of the ongoing and future improvements we have planned for Alaska. Not just by the Army, but also the Air Force and Department of Defense.”
A highlight of the trip came during the visit to two fitness centers on JBER, which registered users can access around the clock with their Common Access Card. The facilities provide instructor-led fitness programs, aerobics and spin classes, and other healthy activities free of charge.
The strength and conditioning room is modeled after the NFL’s New England Patriots facility and is manned by two strength coaches on the staff to assist Soldiers and units. There is also a separate weight room for parents with a play area for the kids, averaging about 80-90 parents per week, and a popular and profitable coffee/juice bar.
The group was joined by Samuel D. Grable, Robinson’s joint basing counterpart at the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center. These partners meet twice a year at each joint base to conduct an Intermediate Command Summit, where their purpose is to identify issues that cannot be resolved at the base level and either commit to correcting at the IMCOM-AFIMSC level or elevate higher to DoD.
The ICS provided a forum for Robinson, Burk, Slaton and Grable to engage Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, Commanding General of the Army’ s 11th Airborne Division and Senior Army Element Commander and his team to discuss issues such as the job market that is impacting staffing levels on base and a short construction season with rising material costs.
“The Army has been focusing a lot of attention, time and resources on Alaska the past several years, along with Fort Hood, Fort Irwin and Fort Polk,” said Burk. “It’s gratifying to come to Alaska and see that energy being brought to life for our Soldiers and their Families who live, work and train here. However, we still have work to do.”