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NEWS | March 31, 2023

Joint Task Force-Red Hill Soldier in the Spotlight

By Petty Officer 2nd Class Allayah Klein Joint Task Force Red Hill

Red Hill (JTF-RH) Deputy Chief of Staff (DCOS), U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jillian Bourque, has 16 years of military service and numerous notable achievements.

Outside of serving in the Army and joint force at the tactical and strategic level, Bourque was a four-year collegiate basketball player and a graduate from the United States Military Academy. She balances her duties as an army officer and a dual-military spouse while being a mother of two small children. She attributes her achievements to having a tremendous support system at home, and having great role models to look up to throughout her career.

“As a junior officer, I didn’t think of myself as a female who accomplished all of these things,” Bourque said. “What I'm becoming more aware of as I get older is that recognition and representation is important. As I become more senior, I realize I am in a position to serve as a mentor and inspire junior personnel to achieve their goals, too.”

Her prior experiences, particularly her previous role as the future operations officer for the Logistics and Engineering directorate at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), paved the way for one of her most challenging roles yet. As DCOS, Bourque supports the chief of staff and commander at the JTF-RH headquarters. Her former boss, Brig. Gen. Gavin Gardner, USINDOPACOM Director for Logistics and Engineering, picked Bourque to be the lead planner at JTF-RH.

“Her experience and knowledge was critical in building this JTF,” said U.S. Army Col. Kevin Williams, JTF-RH Chief of Staff. “She was the right talent.”

At the time, Williams previously worked with Bourque at USINDOPACOM.

“It was an honor to be tasked to be the lead in building the JTF,” Bourque said. “I knew I had to rise to the occasion because the mission was, and continues to be, important to the community and the Department of Defense.

“It was a lot of work,” she continued. “The hardest part was building a functional JTF to address all the challenges and issues associated with defueling Red Hill and re-building public trust,” she said.

A JTF is normally established in a geographical area, or on a functional basis when the mission has a specific, limited objective, and does not require overall centralized control of logistics. The functions that were specifically assigned to JTF-RH came as a result of challenges from previous spills, and the future defueling operations of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility (RHBFSF).

The mission at JTF-RH is to safely and expeditiously defuel the RHBFSF, but it’s also to rebuild trust within the local community.

“Rebuilding trust isn’t an internal mission,” Bourque said. “It's external. It's here in Hawaii with community members who might not understand what a joint code is, but if I say ‘Our Planning Director or our Quality Assurance Director’ those words mean something. It was important to build a functional JTF that could execute effective external communication in order to remain transparent.”

After completing the planning period, JTF-RH was established in September 2022. Bourque efficiently put together a team of individuals who are proficient with expertise in several fields. Her planning phase included identifying service members from across the Department of Defense to participate in the mission.

“I think it goes back to the ability to understand operational requirements, synthesize them, and then work them into the systems that ultimately man us,” Bourque said. “Being able to articulate that, and the urgency related to it was important.”

In just six weeks, Bourque and the initial JTF-RH team doubled in size to almost 230 personnel. Along with her day-to-day administrative roles, she now ensures the mission is met by making sure JTF-RH is manned, equipped, and organized, so that the team is fully resourced and ready to defuel the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.

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