By Don KramerFebruary 4, 2010
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - The intent of joint basing under the Base Realignment and Closure process was to create efficiencies and broaden the support base for Soldiers, Airmen, family members and civil servants. But how those broad goals are put into practice can be unclear as changes begin to occur.
How the new Joint Base Lewis-McChord organization affects its employees, customers and tenants, what Initial Operational Capability means to the workforce, and what changes the new alignment creates in work flow and administration, were important questions on the minds of those most affected on Monday.
The command team of the new JBLM Garrison addressed those issues with back-to-back briefings at McChord and Carey theaters, conducted within hours of the ceremony that heralded the Department of Defense's newest joint base.
Colonels Tom Brittain and Kenny Weldon, the JBLM commander and his deputy, along with the organization's command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Barnes, and senior enlisted adviser, Chief Master Sgt. Frederick Wade, provided an overview of the effects and implications of the newly constituted joint-base headquarters.
The upbeat presentations began with a video production by the public affairs office tracing the parallel histories of the two installations.
"You are making history," Weldon told the Air Force audience that filled McChord Theater with approximately 50 percent civilians and 50 percent uniformed personnel. "This is a significant event for Lewis-McChord, the two installations ... Though it is historic, though it is different, our goal is to walk away from here making this as seamless on everyone as possible."
To the unspoken question among the workforce that packed the theater, "How will this affect me'," Weldon said, "For 98 percent of the people sitting in this room, you're not going to see a single change from what you see every day."
Under the new structure, no civil servants or military members lost jobs. Approximately 600 former Air Force civilians will move to the Department of the Army, however, and as part of the former Air Force allocation of the budget, Weldon said some $34 million was directed to the Army to address the shifting demand on services.
The transfer presented technical changes, Weldon said, related to things as important as pay, but also created an "emotional event" for those having served their entire civil service careers under the Air Force.
Civilians at McChord had what the deputy termed one "extra layer of change" related to what it says on their paychecks and Common Access Cards, reconciling the idea of working for Department of the Army instead of Department of the Air Force.
Support services for both installations began a consolidation process Monday, but mission functions remained unchanged within the Army and Air Force chains of command.
"Two years from now when an Airman gets PCS orders to Joint Base Lewis-McChord and shows up to McChord Field, they're going to feel like and appreciate that they're part of an Air Force mission at a joint base," Weldon said. "That is not going to change ... The lineage and heritage of the installation will be preserved."
The deputy said Airmen would remain on Air Force manning documents and not be transferred to Army Tables of Distribution and Allowances.
"You're still in the Air Force chain of command," Weldon said. "You will still answer to Air Force commanders. You will do what we do every day, and that is support the mission commanders at McChord."
The changes will come in most cases, Weldon said, at senior-leadership and directorate levels of supervision.
With Army and Air Force missions unchanged, leaders will focus on how to provide at minimum the same levels of current installation service and support under the new JBLM alignment.
The demands on support will not diminish, leading to the commander's No. 1 goal in the organization's new vision statement to provide "world-class support to mission commanders and the joint base community."
"That should be no change," Brittain said. "Something we did separately, now we're going to do together."
Though methodology might change, the goals remain the same or even higher. The deputy passed along a high-level pledge that support levels will not suffer under the new organization.
"Services provided on the joint base will be equal to or greater than they are today," Weldon said, based on "a promise signed at the vice-chief of staff level. That carries a lot of weight."
With two cultures integrating, the JBLM commander said there are bound to be challenges ahead.
"There are going to be some road blocks," Brittain said. "We've got to power through them."
He urged that individuals focus on taking pride in their work in the midst of changing names and terminology.
"The name is not what's important. What's important is what's been in your heart for all these years as to how you do your job," Brittain said. "We're going to ask that you do your job the same way you've done it for the past number of years and continue to move forward."
Don Kramer is a reporter with the JBLM Northwest Guardian.