Know Your Military

Seeing the Military From the Inside: Joint Civilian Orientation Course

Aug. 2, 2019 | BY A. Kim Joiner

A. Kim Joiner is the deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for strategic engagement. She directs the department's #KnowYourMil initiative, which aims to strengthen the civilian-military relationship. Here's her first-person account of the Joint Civilian Orientation Course's recent Class 91, in which civic leaders from around the country got an inside look at their nation's military at work.

One week. Twelve hours of flight time. Eight military commands. Four states. Three time zone changes. While such a pace is not outside the norm for our men and women in uniform, the opportunity for a deep dive into the military, its people and its mission is rare for civilian leaders outside the Defense Department. The Secretary of Defense Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, the oldest and most prestigious public outreach program, provides a unique perspective, and JCOC alumni report that it's the "experience of a lifetime."

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Last month, I had the great honor of escorting 34 influential business and community leaders — all who had little to no exposure to the military before — on a fully immersive tour to meet our incredible service members. These community leaders gained a deep understanding and appreciation for the depth and breadth of the DOD mission.

Here is a day in the life of what our 91st class of JCOC, or JCOC 91, participants experienced from coast to coast — crossing land, sea, and air to engage with hundreds of our nation's finest patriots.

On Monday, June 24, JCOC 91 kicked off at the Pentagon, where senior military leaders shared the Defense Department's priorities. Participants learned about the history and evolution of the DOD and the people who support it. By noon, we were on a plane bound for U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, for an inside look at how dedicated professionals work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to defend the nation.

A civilian talks with a service member as others stand nearby.
Peterson Visit
Greg Davis, CIO of Vanguard Investments, talks with Navy Vice Adm. Michael J. Dumont, deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, during a visit by participants in Joint Civilian Orientation Conference 91 to Northcom and Norad headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., June 24, 2019. JCOC participants started their day at the Penatgon with breakfast with senior Defense Department leaders. JCOC is the Defense Department’s oldest and most prestigious public liaison program. Established in 1948, it is the only secretary of defense-sponsored outreach program that enables American business and community leaders to have a full immersive experience with their military.
Photo By: DOD
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On Tuesday, we met up with the Army and learned more about the best equipped, trained and led Army in history through readiness training with the Army's 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson. This showcased the incredible soldiers who are the strength of the nation.

A civilian fist-bumps a soldier outside a helicopter.
Fist Bump
Tony Siragusa, founder of the Siragusa Foundation and a participant in Joint Civilian Orientation Conference 91, fist-bumps a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crewman after a demonstration flight at Fort Carson, Colo., June 25, 2019. JCOC is the Defense Department’s oldest and most prestigious public liaison program. Established in 1948, it is the only secretary of defense-sponsored outreach program that enables American business and community leaders to have a full immersive experience with their military. DOD photo
Photo By: DOD
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A soldier talks to a civilian wearing a protective vest and earphones.
Carson Lesson
Daina Falk, founder of Hungry Fan, meets with a 4th Infantry Division weapons instructor at Fort Carson, Colo., June 25, 2019. As part of the 2019 Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, Falk and others visited the 4th ID to participate in a weapons familiarization course. The JCOC is the Defense Department’s oldest and most prestigious public liaison program. Established in 1948, it is the only secretary of defense-sponsored outreach program that enables American business and community leaders to have a full immersive experience with their military.
Photo By: DOD
VIRIN: 190625-D-ZZ999-106

On Wednesday, we continued west to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada to start Air Force immersion. The participants helped in a simulated rescue operation by the 57th Wing & 58th Rescue Squadron. They also worked with aircraft maintainers, toured the Thunderbirds hangar and trekked to Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, to see the 432nd Wing. At Creech, we learned about the capabilities remotely piloted aircraft bring to the battlefield.

A civilian sits atop a projectile in a hangar-type space and works on it with a tool.
Maintenance Training
Tina McCorkindale, president and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations and a participant in Joint Civilian Orientation Conference 91, takes part in maintenance training at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., June 26, 2019. JCOC is the Defense Department’s oldest and most prestigious public liaison program. Established in 1948, it is the only secretary of defense-sponsored outreach program that enables American business and community leaders to have a full immersive experience with their military.
Photo By: DOD
VIRIN: 190626-D-ZZ999-115

The journey continued on Thursday, taking us to California, where the Naval Special Warfare Center gained 34 new (JCOC 91) trainees for Operation Wet and Sandy. After intense #NavySeal training, we traveled to Coast Guard Sector San Diego, where we embarked with the Coast Guard cutter Aspen for overview of the mission of the Coast Guard to serve as the nation's first responders.

Civilians walk on a beach holding a rubber boat over their heads.
Craft Carry
Joint Civilian Orientation Conference 91 participants, including Tina McCorkindale, left, president and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations, and Lisa Gevelber, right, vice president of global marketing at Google, carry a boat during a demonstration at Naval Special Warfare Center San Diego, June 27, 2019. JCOC is the Defense Department’s oldest and most prestigious public liaison program. Established in 1948, it is the only secretary of defense-sponsored outreach program that enables American business and community leaders to have a full immersive experience with their military.
Photo By: DOD
VIRIN: 190627-D-ZZ999-110

Finally, on Friday, JCOC 91 experienced the first days of a U.S. Marine recruit by stepping out on the yellow footprints at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. Marine Corps drill instructors led the group in training exercises that Marines master to make them ready to face any threat and win any battle.

Marines give instruction as civilians conduct physical training outside.
Corps Course
Marine Corps drill sergeants guide participants in Joint Civilian Orientation Conference 91 through exercises on an obstacle course at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, June 28, 2019, the last day of the conference. JCOC participants went through an obstacle course, flew in MV-22 Ospreys and fired live weapons. JCOC is the Defense Department’s oldest and most prestigious public liaison program. Established in 1948, it is the only secretary of defense-sponsored outreach program that enables American business and community leaders to have a full immersive experience with their military.
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VIRIN: 190628-D-ZZ999-111
A Marine shouts and gets in the face of a civilian standing in a row of civilians.
Marine Motivation
A drill sergeant motivates Don Bossi, president of FIRST robotics and a participant in Joint Civilian Orientation Conference 91, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, June 28, 2019. On the last day of the conference, JCOC participants went through an obstacle course, flew in MV-22 Ospreys and fired live weapons. JCOC is the Defense Department’s oldest and most prestigious public liaison program. Established in 1948, it is the only secretary of defense-sponsored outreach program that enables American business and community leaders to have a full immersive experience with their military.
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VIRIN: 190628-D-ZZ999-103

This whirlwind of engagements with each service gave JCOC 91 a better understanding of our men and women serving in the United States military, why they choose to serve, and the critical missions they support and the sacrifices they make for our nation. Our service men and women are our country's finest asset.

A service member climbs on the side of a ship in the water.
Boarding Demo
A Coast Guardsmen takes part in a boarding demonstration aboard the Coast Guard cutter Aspen for participants in Joint Civilian Orientation Conference 91 in San Diego, June 27, 2019. JCOC is the Defense Department’s oldest and most prestigious public liaison program. Established in 1948, it is the only secretary of defense-sponsored outreach program that enables American business and community leaders to have a full immersive experience with their military.
Photo By: DOD
VIRIN: 190627-D-ZZ999-105

To the 91st class of JCOC — thank you. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to spend a week learning about DOD and service members in support of its mission. Past JCOC alumni have furthered the #KnowYourMil message by sharing their new military connections within their communities and centers of influence and talking about the highly qualified and talented men and women proudly serving the United States of America.

With less than 1% of Americans serving in our military today, community outreach programs like JCOC are critical to open and continue dialogues between the American public and their military. We look forward to you continuing the conversation within your communities about our military. To learn more about JCOC visit our website, and to receive #KnowYourMil updates, sign up here.