By David Poe, Northwest GuardianMarch 9, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Joint Base Lewis-McChord leadership held a town hall meeting March 1 and Col. Thomas Brittain, the installation's commander, was glad the community stayed home.
He was glad they stayed home and embraced social media as JBLM held its first Facebook Virtual Town Hall meeting. The cyber-conversation, which took place on the command's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/JBLMgarrison) brought garrison leaders and the extended JBLM community together for a 90-minute meeting he said he never would have previously imagined.
"Social media has clearly become the environment in which our service members and families communicate," he said, "so events like our virtual town hall help us bring the message to them, where they are."
"Where they were" ranged from single and married JBLM service members and civilians, to troops around the globe who are readying to make JBLM their next duty station. Uniformed and civilian experts from more than a dozen garrison-related service directorates packed JBLM headquarters' Siebert Room and were standing by to answer all pertinent questions.
The production, headed by JBLM's Public Affairs Office, was beyond Judy Monhollen's view, yet the Army spouse who's expecting her first child in September said the effort was effective and appreciated.
"Considering this is the largest Army installation, in terms of personnel, on the West Coast, I think it is wonderful that garrison is using social networking as a way to pass information on to the community and take in suggestions," she said. "It's really great to see so many people get involved in the community and try to find ways to make things better."
Staff Sergeant Eric Iglesias, a 627th Air Base Group Airman, was on duty at the headquarters building for the town hall and though he saw a different scene than Monhollen from her desktop, he had the same type of appreciation for the effort.
"(People) out there probably wouldn't think that there are this many people here gathered like this," the Facebook-using father of a 3-year-old said. "I think sometimes there's a tendency to believe your voice isn't being heard."
Command Sergeant Major Matthew Barnes, JBLM's command sergeant major, said his team is always listening to the masses and anyone who feels the words "team" or "family" are overused cliches in describing this installation definitely weren't in the Siebert Room March 1.
"For all I know (during the town hall) people out there may think there are two or three people running this," he said. "What they don't see are the directors, the chiefs, the branch chiefs that are all here tonight and working hard to answer the public's questions. This is no cliche, the garrison and its staff cares immensely about the community as a whole and the level, detail and effort that our staff is putting into this Facebook town hall tonight is quite obvious."
Brittain said while Facebook town halls would never be the only way his command converses with the JBLM community, citing the value of the Interactive Customer Evaluation system and how he'll continue to reach out to those off the social media grid, he did said more town halls that nobody "attends" could be on the horizon.
"I think it went well, and I hope our community found it useful," he said. "Once we've had a chance to fully assess how things went, we'll talk about future events and ways to use these exciting new tools to strengthen our joint base community."
To view a complete list of questions and answers, visit the JBLM Facebook archive at http://on.fb.me/zN6qHB