Message to JCOC: Translate Experience to Action
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey, Oct. 22, 2006 A senior defense leader encouraged civilian leaders stopping here after a whirlwind visit to military sites in the Middle East to consider what more they can do to support the troops during the global war on terror.
Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for internal communications and public liaison, told the business, academic and community leaders she was delighted to introduce them to the U.S. armed forces and show them the caliber of the men and women serving the country in uniform.
Barber spoke to participants in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference during a refueling stop here as they returned from a one-week trip to Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Djibouti.
The group got “the experience of a lifetime” as they got the opportunity to meet the men and women on the front lines of the terror war, Barber said.
They met with Coast Guardsmen providing maritime security in the North Arabian Sea and protecting two major offshore oil terminals that provide the lion share of the Iraqi government’s income.
They flew about 60 miles off the Kuwait shore to meet the crew of USS Iwo Jima who provide not only a show of strength in the region, but also stand ready to provide humanitarian support in crises.
From there, the group traveled deep into the Kuwaiti desert, where soldiers conducting last-minute training before moving north into Iraq in the days ahead put them through the paces of a counter-improvised-explosive-device training course and gave them a chance to fire some of their weaponry.
The group then moved on to the headquarters of U.S. Central Command Air Forces, where they met airmen supporting ground forces by delivering troops and supplies, providing life-saving intelligence and taking out enemy targets.
From there, the group traveled to Djibouti, where they met members of Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, who are helping prevent the spread of terrorism by helping strengthen regional militaries and improving people’s lives.
“I’m thrilled that you made this connection with our troops,” Barber told the group, noting that it’s impossible to meet U.S. servicemembers without walking away impressed by their professionalism and dedication.
“And after meeting them, I know that many of you are wondering, ‘What more can I do?’ she said. “For those of you wondering that, I invite you to think about America Supports You.”
America Supports You is a Defense Department program that showcases myriad efforts underway around the country to show support for the troops. It brings together schools, churches, businesses, organizations and communities, bringing visibility to their programs and providing an inlet for people wanting to start their own initiative or join in an existing one.
The JCOC group, some already America Supports You partners, presented signed America Supports You banners at each site they visited this week. But Barber encouraged them, particularly those not familiar with the program, to take their involvement a step further after they return home.
America Supports You is important because, as much as the Defense Department does to support its military members, it “can’t do everything,” Barber told the group.
She gave the example of a soldier who lost his leg in Iraq. The military provided five different prostheses, but had no way to pay for the shower bars in his home so he could shower independently. Homes for Our Troops, an America Supports You organization, stepped in and installed the bars, without charge, within days.
“There are so many things that our troops and their families need that the Department of Defense can’t do—but that you can,” Barber told the group.
She challenged them to take their JCOC experience and share their impressions with others when they return home.
“You saw everything the military does this week,” from direct-action against enemy forces to humanitarian assistance, she said.
“I know what you experienced will leave a lasting impression,” she said. “And I hope that among the things you will think about is what more you can do to support our men and women in the military.”
The first U.S. defense secretary, James V. Forrestal, created the JCOC program in 1948 to introduce civilian "movers and shakers" with little or no military exposure to the workings of the armed forces.
Nearly six decades later, it remains DoD's premier civic leader program. Participants are selected from hundreds of candidates nominated by military commands worldwide and pay their own expenses throughout the conference.