FORT GREELY, Alaska -- To see first hand what life is like in Interior Alaska, the Army dispatched several of its highest leaders to Fort Greely to understand what it takes to be a ‘Rugged Professional,’ see what the command team is doing to enhance quality of life, and to see how the installation and region are leaning forward to embrace the Arctic Strategy.
Gen. Joseph M. Martin, the 37th Vice Chief of Staff of the Army and Lt. Gen. Jason T. Evans, Deputy Chief of Staff, G9, arrived from Fort Wainwright Thursday, Feb. 10 following similar tours at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage earlier in the week.
The distinguished visitors arrived to Allen Army Airfield, accompanied by the Commanding General of United States Army Alaska, Maj. Gen. Brian S. Eifler, and United States Army Garrison Commander Col. Nathan Surrey, and were welcomed by Fort Greely Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Joey Orr, Deputy to the Garrison Commander, Richard Fromm, and Command Sgt. Maj. James Breakfield.
“We are here and expertly support Fort Greely’s ‘no-fail’ mission because we work toward unity of effort with our mission partners,” Orr told Martin while en route to the Vice Chief’s first stop. “We are fully synchronized with the 49thMissile Defense Battalion and are beneficiaries of direct support from U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, and because of these close relationships, we are ready to defend the homeland at a moment’s notice.”
Martin’s first stop at Greely positioned he and his team at the Aurora Community Activity Center for a quality-of-life update. Orr and the command team walked the Vice Chief and his team through the facility to show leaders the Bowling Center, several of its many amenities, and discussed an upcoming $10.5 million construction project aimed at enhancing quality of life for Greely’s children … a nine thousand square foot indoor playground.
“Sir, the community asked, and we are prepared to deliver,” Orr explained to the Vice Chief standing before an artist’s rendering of the new space. “We have a few amenities for adults to enjoy their time off, and are hoping to add a java café and relocate our bar area. However, with our extreme-weather challenges, we also recognize how important it is to provide a safe, warm space for our children to play and exercise.”
Visits from leaders at this level often focus on infrastructure and mission discussions, but for Martin, focusing on people is equally, if not more important, than following the standard script. The Vice Chief was very intentional when making sure to engage Greely’s true rugged professionals. Several mid-grade, non-commissioned officers shared a private audience with Martin to give their first-hand accounts of life on Fort Greely. A unique opportunity for the Soldiers, this type of listening session is designed for leaders to receive honest, and open feedback from the troops without being filtered by outside influences.
“I was pleased to learn I was selected to participate in the listening session and have the opportunity to voice my concerns,” said Fort Greely Chapel Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge, Staff Sgt. Kate McErvin. “I think that our voices as Soldiers are starting to be heard, and you can tell that from the direction the Army is moving such as finally looking at the height and weight program.”
Following the hour-long listening session, Martin and the team took a short journey over to the headquarters of one of Greely’s mission partners, the United States Army Cold Regions Test Center where they were welcomed by its Commander, Lt. Col. Ina Jackson. Jackson and her team offered the Vice Chief and other distinguished visitors a capabilities briefing highlighting the center’s unique mission, which is to conduct developmental testing, with an emphasis on Soldier participation, in the snow, extreme cold, and sub-arctic natural environment. She explained extreme, cold-weather testing provides acquisition and Army leadership with timely, accurate, and relevant information relating to a system’s arctic performance.
“Anytime we get a chance to share CRTC’s mission and capabilities with visitors, we see an opportunity to show the vital importance of our part in the big picture of putting equipment into the hands of arctic Soldiers and how that improves their lethality and survivability,” said CRTC Technical Director Jeff Lipscomb. “We want everyone to understand what we do, why we were given this mission 72 years ago, and how CRTC can best contribute to enabling those Soldiers to achieve arctic dominance. Giving senior leaders that information allows them to make informed decisions on appropriate utilization and resourcing of our unique capabilities.”
Although Martin’s time at Greely was short, he was also intent on seeing Greely’s influence in the region. Following his sessions within the garrison’s fence line, the Vice Chief and his team traveled south down the Richardson Highway to Black Rapids and the Northern Warfare Training Center. NWTC, Black Rapids and Greely will all play critical roles in the upcoming Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Capability exercise scheduled for March. JPMRC is a Department of the Army initiative that consists of a deployable package of personnel and equipment designed to support training exercises across the Pacific theater, and Martin wanted an understanding of the playing field for situational awareness.
The Vice Chief walks away with a better understanding of the area and its unique challenges, the steps garrison is taking to ensure Greely is a great place to live and work, and how the region is postured not only for the upcoming exercise, but also how it is leaning forward as the Department of Defense implements its Arctic Strategy.
Gen. Martin assumed duties at the 37th Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, July 26, 2019. He holds a master’s in education from the University of Louisville and is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the United States Army War College.
Fort Greely, known as the ‘Home of the Rugged Professional,’ is strategically located in remote, Interior Alaska, and its mission is midcourse missile defense. Fort Greely Garrison supported tenants include: Ground-Based Midcourse Defense, 49th Missile Defense Battalion, 59th Signal Battalion, Cold Regions Test Center, Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Defense Commissary Agency, Logistics Readiness Center, and the U.S. Postal Service.
The installation and garrison commander at Fort Greely is dual-hatted and reports to both Installation Management Command through the Pacific Area Region Office and the senior mission commander through U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.