JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - It was a blending of military cultures, civilian style.

The public-outreach campaign by the senior leaders of Joint Base Lewis-McChord continued last week with a briefing for the professional organizations supporting the Army and Air Force.

Members of the Air Force Association and the Association of the U.S. Army heard directly April 8 from Col. Thomas Brittain and Col. Kenny Weldon, the JBLM Army commander and Air Force deputy commander, the status and future of the joint-basing process.

It was the first time the two local military support associations had held a joint meeting, according to the AFA Winter Edition 2010 newsletter.

Where formerly, Army and Air Force representatives came to similar community forums separately and forced community members to sort out their messages independently, Weldon said under joint basing, one representative would come in the future to speak with one, less-confusing military voice.

The two officers mingled with retirees and active-duty members of both services before and after their briefing, augmenting the answers to questions they fielded during the presentation, to give attendees every opportunity to voice concerns.

Brittain and Weldon have delivered similar briefings to a variety of the area's civic, fraternal and community organizations, an effort that continued last week with the professional, albeit independent, nonprofit, civilian organizations most associated with promoting the two services.

"This is a great opportunity for us," Brittain said, "everybody in this room, and every Soldier, Airman and family that we touch, to make history.

"Blue and green, sitting side by side," Brittain described JBLM leadership. The services will cooperate, even integrate, but maintain their own unique identities and cultures, he said.

The Congressional Base Realignment and Closure process determined in 2005 that Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base would combine as one of 12 U.S. joint bases. The two colonels led the Feb. 1 celebration of JBLM's arrival at initial operational capability, the stand-up for the first organizations under the new joint banner. Full operational capability, the date when even the most complex organizations on the installation assume their new status, will occur Oct. 1, at the beginning of the new fiscal year. By that date, all 267 measured services in 49 functional areas will fall under the joint base architecture.
Between IOC and FOC, Brittain said, "we're making that meshing, that collaboration, that integration, that embedding work, and we're figuring out where some of the bumps in the road are."

The briefing reported the progress at the end of five years of work by hundreds of Army and Air Force members and civilians at all levels of government. Though blending the two services' cultures presented substantial challenges, through focus on the mission and ultimate willingness to work together, JBLM has arrived.

"The concept here is to realign installation support," Weldon said, "to be more efficient and effective to support mission commanders."

The emphasis on BRAC 2005 shifted, he said, from closure to realignment. No positions were eliminated; in fact, positions were added to manning documents.

"This is the only joint base of the 12," Weldon said, "that has a full operational mission on the Army side and a full operational mission on the Air Force side. ... As was demonstrated recently when the 62nd (Airlift Wing) ... flew to Iraq and picked up the I Corps command element coming back from Iraq after a year, there is a synergistic effect of having the corps, the Stryker brigades, the other brigades and the C-17s here within a single fence line."
Weldon gave two examples illustrating the success of the integration. After a fire crash truck, responsible for emergency response on the flight line, went down for maintenance two months ago, a similar vehicle was moved from JBLM Lewis Main to McChord Field.

Two weeks ago, Air Force security forces helped apprehend a gate runner at the Madigan Gate. Weldon also mentioned sharing a "fiber-optic backbone" developed jointly by Air Force and Army information technology experts that will allow him as deputy commander to sit in his office in Building 1010 on Lewis Main and access the Air Force network, saving taxpayers about $6 million.

"This is the strongest collocation of these two services that exists anywhere else," Brittain said, making JBLM a "critical national asset" for years to come.

Don Kramer is a reporter with the Northwest Guardian, Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper.