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 Evans recalls first two years of JBER
'Joint basing is personal'

Posted 5/25/2012   Updated 5/25/2012 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Air Force Col. Robert Evans
673d Air Base Wing and JBER commander

5/25/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- What an incredible journey it has been! As Suzy and I prepare to leave Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, I wanted to share some thoughts and express my profound appreciation for those that helped establish JBER as the premier joint base in the Department of Defense and the "Home of the Arctic Warriors."

Joint basing was thrust upon us by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission and codified in law. It was not an idea born here, and many opposed the concept. But, the senior commanders at the former Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Air Force Base embraced the idea and chartered an enterprise team to develop the blueprint for success.

The result was a totally integrated joint base with a joint command team and a single view of installation services. JBER would be more than an exercise in cost-saving, we would become a truly joint installation ... with Soldiers and Airmen, and their families supporting each other and taking advantage of the core values that bond all who serve in the defense of this nation.

Joint basing is not about changing service cultures; it is about recognizing that all who defend this nation share a common set of beliefs. Together, we can achieve more than we ever could apart. Together we can overcome any obstacle and adversity.

We faced adversity, together. Just days before we activated the 673d Air Base Wing as the installation host, tragedy struck. As I witnessed the response to the crash of Sitka 43 and the loss of four Airmen, I saw this was already a joint base. Airmen and Soldiers worked together in the days following this disaster; the foundation of trust and mutual respect would underpin our fledgling joint base.

I realized early that the joint basing law would only serve to formalize an already strong relationship. I knew then that JBER had the potential to be the best of all the joint bases ... delivering far more than either base could independently. But, realizing this vision would not be easy.

The Congress directed the Department of Defense to combine 26 installations, closely located, into 12 joint bases for one reason: to save money. But, for me, joint basing has the potential to deliver far more than cost savings.

I firmly believe joint basing can be the catalyst to build teams; mutually supporting relationships between Soldiers and Airmen, civilian employees and our families. Relationships built on trust and mutual respect, earned through promises kept and smiles returned.

We are all in this together. It doesn't matter if you wear Army Combat Uniform, the Air Force Battle Uniform, natural fibers or civilian garb ... all of us serve to defend our great nation. Joint basing gives us the opportunity to close ranks and support each other. How can that be anything other than goodness!

We have saved money, and I'm proud of that. But, I am most proud of the relationships we've built.

Army Col. Morris Goins, the commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), carries my commander's coin in his combat wallet. It symbolizes our support for his Soldiers and their families here at JBER.

We will not let them down. Joint basing is personal.

After watching our Security Forces respond to the simulated launch of an F-22 Raptor fighter on NORAD alert, I asked the Airmen what they thought of joint basing. A young senior airman enthusiastically said, "Sir, I love it. I'm making friends with Soldiers. They're teaching me about the Army and I'm teaching them about the Air Force. And, we're defending our joint base together."

For me, that is the essence of joint basing: relationships and mutual support. And, this foundation of trust, mutual respect and understanding will enable us to tackle tough problems together; together we will find the efficiencies that will lead to the cost saving envisioned by the framers of joint basing. It can't start with a spreadsheet. It must start with trust and understanding, and at JBER, it has.

I am extraordinarily proud of our joint base team; the Soldiers, Airmen and civilian employees, and the families ... both Army and Air Force, that came together, putting service pride aside, to build this joint base team.

You have set the foundation for a joint military community, and a joint base that values effectiveness over efficiency. Someday, all this will be invisible. JBER will be all they have known, oblivious to the tension and strife that complicated our first steps. They will live in a joint military community second to none. They will owe you a debt they will never understand, and can never repay. And, I will always be grateful.

Joint basing depends on trust, transparency and time. It is a journey. I'm proud to have played a role along the way, and I will never forget my friends on the Last Frontier. May you always be arctic tough, mission ready, and family strong!

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