By Don KramerFebruary 4, 2010
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. (Feb. 4, 2010) -- With the final tug of a canvas case, the unfurling and raising of its new flag, Joint Base Lewis-McChord began its history at 10 a.m. Monday, during a ceremony in front of its new headquarters at Building 1010 on what is now called "JBLM Lewis Main."
Joint Base Commander Col. Thomas H. Brittain and his Air Force deputy, Col. Kenny Weldon, shared the honors of uncasing the new JBLM garrison flag along with their senior NCOs, Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Barnes and Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Frederick Wade.
The ceremony marked the beginning of Initial Operational Capability for the joint base, the founding of the joint base headquarters and the official start of the phased transfer of installation support functions for both installations to the joint-base configuration.
The composition of the color guard reflected the spirit of amity between the two services, with two Airmen and two Soldiers performing the honors.
The transition period of IOC will last eight months until Oct. 1, when Full Operational Capability is reached with all milestones and objectives completed. The eight months will be divided into three phases during which increasingly complex units will integrate and take their places in the joint base structure.
"In a sense this is not new," said Brittain. "Fort Lewis and McChord have been cooperating in defense of our great nation for many decades. In far-away places right now, Airmen and Soldiers are side by side on the battlefield."
Four years of planning and analyzing have gone into this day since the Base Realignment and Closure process designated Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base as one of 12 sets of installations to be merged.
"Really, the actual work starts today," Brittain said. "Now we begin this phased integration of all the support services that previously resided in the 62nd Mission Support Group ... and the services provided by U.S. Army Garrison into our Joint Base Garrison."
Barnes and Wade did the honors in removing a cover from the "Joint Base Garrison" sign over the doorway at the main entrance to the new headquarters. Brittain and Weldon followed suit by jointly taking down a camouflaged poncho covering the JBLM Headquarters sign at the front of the property.
The casing of the U.S. Army garrison flag that initiated the ceremonies was another joint operation, performed by Brittain and Barnes, with assistance from J. Randall Robinson, the director of West Region of U.S. Army Installation Management Command, and his senior NCO, Command Sgt. Maj. Terry Braddock.
"The United States military has always built its combat power on the legacy of those who have gone before us and the traditions of the services," Brittain said. "We will preserve those traditions and heritage. We will create something new and enduring for our joint base, our local community and our nation. In fact, we envision that our headquarters will be a center for the preservation of those key heritages."
Brittain invited the crowd into the headquarters after the ceremony to see the displays that lined both sides of the entrance and main hallway commemorating historic milestones of both Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base. Displays traced "Camp Lewis" back to 1904 and McChord Field to 1938, with brushes with famous figures such as Charles Lindbergh, Gen. Colin Powell and President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
"It is no exaggeration when I say history is being made here today," Brittain said, "as only one of 12 joint bases and the largest under Army management, the only one with a corps headquarters. We are truly at the tip of the spear."
(Don Kramer is a reporter with the JBLM Northwest Guardian)