News Search
NEWS | Sept. 28, 2011

Joint Base Charleston celebrates 1st birthday

By Eric Sesit Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Special thanks to 628th Air Base Wing historian Jason Axberg for his excellent historical narrative of the Joint Base process on which this article is based.

It's been one year since the Naval Weapons Station and the Charleston Air Force base merged to form the entity now known as Joint Base Charleston. So, what have the benefits been to the base and its population during the past year? In order to do that, we must first take a look back at how the Navy and Air Force worked together to build a single joint team and one of the largest employers in the state of South Carolina.

The Joint Basing process began as a result of the congressionally mandated 2005 Base Realignment and Closure report. The idea was to merge 26 individual military bases into 12 joint bases, bases that would be run by one Department of Defense agency which would provide infrastructure support to all the supported and tenant units. By combining the infrastructure of the bases under one command, the DoD aimed to cut back on redundant efforts and save money.

Planning for the creation of JB CHS began in 2006 as data was collected from all the different commands and agencies on both the Weapons Station and the Air Base. Once the data collection was complete, a Joint Base Partnership Council was developed and using the collected data, set out to keep all the participating agencies on track in meeting the requirements set forth by the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

"Common Output Level Standards or COLS were provided by OSD which spelled out requirements and responsibilities for the new joint base," said Carter Hayes, Business Office division chief. "There are 274 COLS that must be reported on quarterly to the Joint Base commander. The COLS ensure that each organization within JB CHS is meeting the standards set by OSD."

As Oct. 1, 2010 approached, bringing with it Joint Base Charleston's Full Operational Capacity date, units worked on transferring funding, deciphering communication issues, writing Memorandums of Understanding and working on personnel issues. And although the cultural differences between the Air Force and the Navy were enormous, they remained just that: cultural issues. The professionalism of the people involved kept the cultural issues at bay as Sailors and Airmen and civilians worked within the constructs provided by OSD to seamlessly merge the two bases.

"The goal for everyone involved in making this transition was to move to a Joint Base environment as seamlessly as possible," said Hayes. "To do this, the Joint Base Partnership council continues to meet quarterly. At these meetings, all the major commands are present to discuss various issues that arise and present those issues along with recommendations for resolving them to the Joint Base commander. As these issues are resolved, they continue to improve the statistical success of the COLS, bringing JB CHS up to the standards set by OSD."

A far-reaching impact that has arisen from the joint base process has been the development of a JB CHS - Weapons Station Master Plan that will provide a tool to guide the installation commanders and other decision makers in the long-range development of the installation. According to Bill Werrell, 628th Civil Engineer Squadron planner, the districting plan focuses on locating compatible tenant and supported command missions within separate clearly delineated districts based on their current footprint, function, security requirements and future growth and mission. The plan provides clear demarcation between environmentally sensitive areas and future development of the Weapons Station and addresses current and future parking requirements and management. The plan also dictates a uniform signage style across both bases, emphasizing the joint base unity of the Weapons Station and Air Base.

All the units on the Air Base have felt the impact of Joint Basing, some much more so than others. The 628th Civil Engineer Squadron was already responsible for 291 facilities and 476 military and family housing units on 3,500 acres of the Air Base. As FOC became reality, the 628 CES took on the added responsibility of an additional 15,000 acres with 1,063 additional facilities at the Weapons Station, greatly increasing the unit's workload.

The 628th Communication's Squadron had the responsibility of implementing a joint system that would add 47 locations to their network, connecting an additional 400 users. Additionally, a Giant Voice system, standard on most Air Force installations, had to be installed on the Weapons Station. The 628 CS needed to install 22 Giant Voice announcement towers covering 23,000 acres on the Weapons Station.

The 628th Force Support Squadron saw its mission greatly expanded. Joint Basing increased the 628 FSS customer base from 28,000 to more than 78,000. There are now two golf courses, two bowling centers and two child care centers in addition to the dozens of classes and workshops held every month. Combining services on the two installations resulted in an increase in squadron personnel from 420 to 700 employees.

Another unit that has undergone huge changes due to Joint Basing is the 628th Security Forces Squadron. Joint Basing not only brought changes to the squadron's mission, it also changed the 628 SFS Air Force mission itself. As the 437th Security Forces Squadron, the unit provided physical security, law enforcement and force protection for roughly 28,000 people on the Air Base. After FOC, and now designated as the 628 SFS, that number tripled as did their area of coverage, which now includes the waterways in and around the Weapons Station. The 628 SFS now also provides security services for new tenant units including the Army's Surface Deployment Command, Nuclear Power Training Unit and Naval Nuclear Power Training Command.

The 628th Logistics Readiness Squadron, already responsible for providing supplies, equipment, vehicles and the deployment of personnel, saw an increase in its mission from supporting the numerous new tenants on the Weapons Station. The squadron gained 1,000 additional vehicles and all the maintenance requirements that goes along with maintaining the fleet. The workload was further increased by the addition of port operations, boat maintenance and rail yard operations.

Along with an increased workload for many units, there has also been benefits that have arisen from joint basing, including sharing Morale, Welfare and Recreation service programs which allows Airmen and Sailors to take part in recreational, educational and entertainment events at both bases. Also, the JB CHS - AB has adopted the Navy's Liberty program, a Navy-wide program that offers travel and recreational opportunities to single Sailors.

Every unit on both the Weapons Station and the Air Base has been changed to one extent or the other, but the underlying premise of Joint Basing is an overall improvement in services while streamlining costs. As the Joint Base process moves forward, new methods and ways of doing business are being developed. It is no longer possible to say, "That's how we've always done business."

"The only way to survive in today's political and economic environment, and in our case, a joint environment, is to become more efficient at what we do everyday," said George McDowell, 628th Air Base Wing program management and analyst.

"Joint Base Charleston has a program called Joint Base Charleston LEAN," said McDowell. "LEAN is taken from the Air Force Smart Ops for the 21st Century and the Navy's Lean Six Sigma. Both AFSO21 and LSS emphasize LEAN, which seeks out the best way to do things within your work place. Lean uses tools to look at the entire process and identify wasted effort and time and ways to eliminate that waste.

Many of the base organizations are already using LEAN just by the fact that they have had to make changes necessitated by joint basing. And during the next few years, there will be many opportunities for all members of the joint base community to seek out new ways of doing business and making JB CHS an even better and more efficient place to conduct the nation's business.