Bases Get New Names in Realignment
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 24, 2010 Some military installations are consolidating and getting new names as joint basing becomes a reality.
Army Col. Thomas Brittain, left, and Air Force Col. Kenny Weldon walk away from the new headquarters sign after a ceremony marking attainment of initial operational capability for Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Feb. 1, 2010. The joint installation comprises the former Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base. Photo by Ingrid Barrentine, courtesy of the Northwest Guardian
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission’s directive to consolidate 26 stateside military installations into 12 joint bases has brought names such as Lewis-McChord, Langley-Eustis, and even the trilateral McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst into the lexicon of military installations.
Settling on new names was but a fraction of considerations undertaken in the four-year joint-basing process, which produced 12 agreements that range from 600 to 1,000 pages and cover everything from billeting to signage to services, said Air Force Col. Michael “Mickey” Addison, the Defense Department’s deputy director of joint basing.
While each joint base has its own unique challenges and experiences, Addison said, the process created much-needed uniformity in directing 49 like functions for each base.
“The Department of Defense now has common output level standards,” he said. “Not having those standards was largely why we had difficulty doing this in the past.”
Without common standards, Addison said, some services would, for example, measure unaccompanied housing by the number of beds, while others would measure space.
“One of the benefits of joint basing is in learning how to talk to each other,” he said. “We all had different languages. If you say ‘emergency response’ to a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, you may get four different ideas of what that means.”
Joint basing isn’t new, Addison pointed out. The military has used it for years in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia. Still, he said, the concept met with some resistance stateside.
“We know how to fight jointly,” Addison said. “We’ve gotten really good at that in the past 10 or 20 years. What we aren’t as good at yet is living together back in the [continental United States].”
As commander of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Army Col. Tommy Brittain is motivated by his experiences with successful joint basing overseas as he works to meet the BRAC deadline to become fully operational by October. The start of joint basing, he said, can be traced back to the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act.
“We’ve been training and fighting together ever since,” he said. “So, it was a natural progression to come to this conclusion at these certain locations to take care of mission commanders, warfighters and their families.
“I’m very proud to be a member of this team and leading this team in this direction,” he added. “Honestly, I believe this is going to be historical.”
Brittain called the transition “a very complex process” that succeeds through teamwork at every level, outreach to stakeholders and “100 percent transparency in what we’re doing.”
Like a city manager overseeing an annexation, Brittain had to study how the support functions of Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base would merge, where they would collocate, how jobs would change, and much more.
“What was managed as two separate cities now is managed as one city,” he said. “We have maintained our appropriate storefronts at the right location for where all those customers live, work and train.”
Brittain said his job was made easier by the appointment of Air Force Col. Jerry K. “Kenny” Weldon II as the deputy base commander at Lewis-McChord. Weldon served in the Pentagon’s installations and environment office and was well-versed in joint basing before going to Lewis-McChord.
“There is great teamwork and leadership offered by Kenny Weldon and [the Air Force’s 62nd Airlift Wing commander], Col. Kevin Kilb, and so I have tried to continue to move forward with the teamwork approach to solve any problems that arise,” Brittain said.
While the nature of the base merger forces compromises, Weldon said, teamwork grew out of the realization that joint standards for services and dual oversight of services would create a better installation.
“There is a clear recognition in today’s environment that you’ve got to have strong support to take care of warfighters and their families,” he said. “It’s a goal at every installation, but this is a concerted effort to try to put a definition to what that means.”
The BRAC commission created the joint bases to bring efficiencies, common practices and cost savings to bases that were duplicating efforts, even while most shared a fence line, Addison said. One of the biggest challenges has been to assuage fears that joint basing strips services of their culture and heritage, he said.
“That’s the hardest thing for our base commanders to do is to assure people that nothing will be lost, then build a joint culture that preserves the cultures and what is special about each,” Addison said.
Brittain said he has tried to do just that as he reaches out to soldiers and airmen. “We’re getting out the message that this does not change our service culture, this does not change our service history, and this does not change our service mission,” he said.
Such outreach, he said, is part of the process in moving the installation toward being fully operational as a joint base by October.
“We’re going 24 hours a day to make sure things happen,” Brittain said. “There is a great team beneath us that wear both a blue uniform and a green uniform, and they’re moving the ball toward the goal.”
Seven bases received new names in January:
-- Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base became Joint Base Lewis-McChord, led by the Army;
-- The Navy’s Anacostia Annex and Bolling Air Force Base here became Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, led by the Navy;
-- Naval Station Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, became Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, led by the Navy;
-- Charleston Air Force Base and Naval Weapons Station Charleston, S.C., became Joint Base Charleston, led by the Air Force;
-- Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson, Alaska, became Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, led by the Air Force;
-- Lackland and Randolph Air Force bases and Fort Sam Houston, Texas, became Joint Base San Antonio, led by the Air Force; and
-- Langely Air Force Base and Fort Eustis in Virginia became Joint Base Langley-Eustis, led by the Air Force.
Five others became joint bases in October when:
-- Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek and Fort Story in Virginia became Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, led by the Navy;
-- Fort Myer and the Marine Corps’ Henderson Hall in Virginia became Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, led by the Army;
-- Andrews Air Force Base and Naval Air Facility Washington, in Maryland, became Joint Base Andrews, led by the Air Force;
-- McGuire Air Force Base, Fort Dix and Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst, all in New Jersey, became Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, led by the Air Force; and
-- Navy Base Guam and Andersen Air Force Base in Guam became Joint Region Marianas, led by the Navy.