JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Being proactive and maintaining strong community relationships provide the focus for "courtesy patrols" being instituted Thursday.

I Corps Chief of Operations and Exercises Col. Luther Shealy said preserving and fostering relationships and supporting surrounding communities are priorities to command.

"Courtesy patrol is one of the ways that we are working to be good neighbors with Joint Base Lewis-McChord's surrounding communities," Shealy said.

The courtesy patrol is Soldiers looking out for Soldiers, helping to keep Soldiers safe, maintain discipline and maintain high standards of conduct, he said.

"Our courtesy patrol, working in conjunction with local establishment owners and police, will maintain a presence in areas that Soldiers frequent, to prevent any misconduct," Shealy said.

Soldiers always need to maintain the high standards and Army values that they are taught, he said.

"Soldiers are trained to look after and help each other, both on and off the battlefield," Shealy said. "Our courtesy patrol is just another way of continuing this tradition of Soldiers looking out for each other."

With Joint Base Lewis-McChord seeing an influx of more than 18,000 returning Soldiers and Airmen, the possibility for misconduct increases, he said.

"We have a large Soldier population all returning home to JBLM from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan within a relatively short amount of time this fall," Shealy said. "Our courtesy patrol is a proactive step to help prevent any acts of indiscipline or bad behavior in the surrounding communities."

Uniformed Soldiers will be executing courtesy patrols in the Lakewood and Tacoma area.

The program's inception is focused on the most frequented entertainment and nightclub areas, he said.

However, the program is adaptable and can grow as necessary.

"We will closely monitor the effectiveness of the courtesy patrols and evaluate whether or not to continue and possibly even expand the program to other areas," Shealy said.

Preparations for the courtesy patrols meant working hand-in-hand with the surrounding communities, he said.

"Over the last three months we have worked very closely with our local community leaders, law enforcement officials, business owners and several community groups, explaining the courtesy patrol concept, as well as seeking their feedback and ideas on courtesy patrol," Shealy said. "Everyone we have talked to has welcomed the courtesy patrol idea and fully supported this program."

Shealy said an important command message in starting up the program is that the patrols will not engage in policing.

"Courtesy patrol is not taking the place of local law enforcement - they are only focused on Soldiers' conduct," Shealy said.

What to expect

Aca,!Ac Uniformed Soldiers conducting courtesy patrols will approach off-duty Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen who are conducting themselves inappropriately, confirm their identities and encourage the service members to modify their behavior.

Aca,!Ac As the patrols have general military authority, service members should comply with their instructions as they would any other order.

Aca,!Ac The patrols are intended to curb behavior that reflects poorly on the military and that could result in law enforcement action. However, the patrols themselves are not police and will not enforce the law. Behavior that violates the law could result in local law enforcement action, at the discretion of the appropriate law enforcement agency.

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