Air Force, Navy support functions begin merging into Joint Base Charleston

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Daniel Bowles
  • 628th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Jan. 31 marked the beginning of the transitional period of initial operational capability for Joint Base Charleston officials, with the end-goal of full operational capability for the joint base by the end of fiscal 2010.

Emphasis during the transitional period will be on executing a "blending" of many Air Force and Navy support functions as seamlessly as possible, said Lt. Col. Kevin Riley, the 628th Air Base Wing joint basing coordinator.

Colonel Riley's experience with joint basing at Charleston predates the Jan. 8 activation of the 628th ABW. Having worked on the joint base project for several years, he is the resident expert on what it takes to make the joint base a reality.

More than 50 installation support functions are set to merge between Jan. 31 and Oct. 1, he said. Examples of Air Force and Navy agencies set to merge include postal, protocol, equal opportunity, inspector general, honor guard and public affairs services.

Although Joint Base Charleston's Navy operations employ thousands of people, most work within tenant units and will not be directly affected by the merge. Their day-to-day operations will continue as normal while the support functions are merged under the air base wing. For roughly 700 people, indoctrination into the air base wing awaits, but most will be civilian personnel, with approximately 50 enlisted Sailors and a "handful" of Navy officers, the colonel said.

By now, the term "joint basing" should be familiar for most Airmen, civilians and Sailors alike, in part due to much of the work already accomplished by Colonel Riley and his staff. With all the cross-talk in social circles on moving toward a joint base, the lines may become blurred on where the base currently stands.

"IOC is the beginning of the merger. We're actually now taking steps to merge things," he said. "Before, we did an awful lot of planning. As far as standing up the joint base, we were planning for this date to come and how to blend the organizations together; how to actually merge things.

"We planned for it, and now we're actually starting to do it," Colonel Riley continued, explaining the significance of the Jan. 31 milestone.

The IOC will last until Oct. 1, at which point full operational capability will take effect. Oct. 1, control and responsibility for property and members for all installation management functions will be fully transferred to Col. Martha Meeker, the 628th ABW commander.

It is important to understand that administrative control will remain with the current "owning units" until FOC, Colonel Riley said, and rather the operational control, or guidance control, would gradually be handed over to the 628th ABW commander during the transition.

Designated by Base Realignment and Closure policy, the Air Force will be the lead service for Joint Base Charleston at FOC, but as the new 628th ABW commander recently stated, the 628th ABW will operate as "one team, serving all with a focus on unrivaled support."

Since taking command, Colonel Meeker has been a strong voice for advocating a "fight joint, live joint" future for Joint Base Charleston, a base which contributes to the joint fight in the Middle East every day. The colonel's vision falls right in line with recent statements made by Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley during his visit to Afghanistan.

"The importance of the joint mission cannot be stressed enough if we hope to achieve the overall success of our mission in Afghanistan," Secretary Donley said. "With the Air Force's commitment to the joint mission comes the responsibility of filling the requirements as we are able."

Joint Base Charleston officials will be working hard in the next year to ensure it is ready and able to meet such requirements as FOC approaches, Colonel Riley said. IOC will be carried out in a phased approach, he said, and care will be taken as each phase is addressed. Overall, the transition to full operating capability scheduled for Oct. 1 should only bring mild culture shock as events unfold in the coming months.

"Our goal is that when a Sailor and an Airman or a civilian comes home on a Friday and goes to work on a Monday, when it's (fully operational) and when we've transferred the functions, that they probably wouldn't notice a difference," he said. "We're trying to make it as seamless and transparent as possible. So that our service is as good as it was before, if not better."