Joint Base Charleston

 

Joint Base Charleston – An awesome association!

By Col. Caroline Evernham | 315th Operations Group commander | February 10, 2015

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- I wonder how often people assigned here realize or even think about all the elements that are associating as part of the total and joint force here on Joint Base Charleston?  I have been here about a year now, and I would like to let you know that I'm very impressed with what I've seen, and I really think we at JB Charleston lead the way as far as the concept of associations go!

Associations are not new to the Air Force.  The classic associate model that we (the 315th Airlift Wing) have, where the active-duty "own" the equipment (for us the mighty C-17s on our ramp) and the Reserve component augments the active-duty side in fulfilling the mission, has been around for a very long time.  The association between the 437th Airlift Wing and the 315th AW on what used to be Charleston Air Force Base has been in place since July 1973.  So for more than 40 years, these two wings have been sharing aircraft, equipment, mission, facilities and more.   Our aircrews train and deploy both separately and together; our maintenance groups are integrated on many levels and work side-by-side daily.  During drill weekends, Reservists often take over active-duty offices in order to serve and support the drilling Reservists who flow into the base.

In 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended: "Realign Naval Weapons Station Charleston, S.C., by relocating the installation management functions to Charleston AFB," and thus began a new type of association - the joint basing concept.  In 2010, the 628th Air Base Wing was activated in order to merge the air base with the weapons station, and things really changed!  The 437th AW commander no longer "owned" the base infrastructure; that became the purview of the 628th ABW commander, who now had the mission of supporting all Naval and Air Force entities over a 24,000 acre "joint" installation.  That Air Force colonel now had to learn about naval nuclear operations, river dredging, harbor security, railway operations, and a host of other things he'd never really thought about! The great thing is now we have Air Force, Navy, Army and Coast Guard mission partners who are part of our everyday operations here, and we get to learn more about their service and what they do. 

Amongst our organizations at JB Charleston, we have the 560th RED HORSE Squadron, which officially stood up here in March 2009.  RED HORSE stands for Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron, Engineer (now there's a mouthful!) and the squadron consists of about 200 personnel that provide major force bed-down, damage repair and heavy engineering operations during wartime. This is a Reserve unit, but it's not part of the 315th AW - they belong directly to their Numbered Air Force, but the 315th supports them administratively.

Associations are the way of the future.  Blending the best parts of active-duty and the Reserve makes us better and stronger, and more ready to face the challenges ahead.  The unit I came from, the 916th Air Refueling Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., is an active association, where the Reserve owns the planes and there's an active-duty squadron of aircrew and maintainers that integrate with the Reserve.  This is a relatively new concept, but one that is taking shape across the country in a variety of airframes, and the Air National Guard has embraced the concept also.

I expect to see more associations in the future, but I think JB Charleston is a great example of how numerous disparate units can come together and function jointly to meet a common goal and make our military and our nation stronger.


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