As Lt. Col. Kari K. Otto spoke April 5 to the 2011 Army Master Planning Symposium at the Boston Marriott Copley Place, the slide behind her showed the same word repeated three times: collaboration.

Otto, garrison commander at U.S. Army Garrison-Natick, told attendees that collaboration held the key to development of a successful installation master plan.

Speaking on the topic "Installation Planning: A Garrison Commander's Perspective," Otto explained how Natick developed its master plan through a collaborative effort that included the garrison's tenant organizations.

"They divided us up into four groups," said Otto, "and we worked through the master-planning process."

This inclusive process reaped benefits.

"If they are involved in the process, they own it," Otto said. "Everybody has an opportunity to get their concerns on the table and get them addressed."

As Otto pointed out, the four Natick groups produced surprisingly similar results. Common ideas for the future included the addition of a recreational area, on-base housing, perimeter paths, structured parking, consolidated industrial area, and green spaces.

"We're still a work in progress," Otto said. "The big buzz words' Sustainable, state of the art, and walkable."

Otto also urged master planners to work closely with their installations' senior commanders and garrison commanders.

"You can have the absolute best master plan out there, but if you can't articulate it to them in terms they understand, it's just nice paper to look at," Otto said. "They are always focused on the war-fighting mission, and so you've got to talk to them in war-fighters' terms.

"If it fully supports the mission, it's a success. And if you put it in those terms, that will resonate with them."

Otto recommended that master planners look at their installations' strengths and weaknesses.
"You're never going to get the opportunity to demolish everything and start from the ground up," Otto said. "So identify what you've got that's good, and build on it."

Otto related how Natick invited the surrounding community onto the installation to learn more about the master plan, which was also posted on its website and social media.

"That gives a level of transparency and a level of trust and confidence with the surrounding community," said Otto, "and that's invaluable."

The master plan was developed with an eye toward making the Natick Soldier Systems Center the leader of the research, development, acquisition and sustainment of freedom's defenders.

"We have awesome people," Otto said. "We want to make sure that our facilities continue to support and help recruit a world-class work force.

"We do have some room to grow. It's just being creative in how we do it."