Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. —
Thirty-two civic leaders took part in an Honorary Commander Boot Camp April 5 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
The boot camp introduced participants to several aspects of military life, including physical training, weapons familiarization, basic military drill and more. The honorary commanders were divided into two teams and scored on their performance, with the winning team to be crowned at the end of the day.
“I came into this totally open minded, not knowing what was going to be thrown at us,” said Adam Binder, Honorary Commander for the 621st Contingency Response Wing. “I’ve known many people who have gone away to military basic training, but until you’ve experienced something, you don’t truly understand it. We may only be doing a small part of it, but I hope this will bring us at least a little closer to understanding.”
The day began with an introduction from 174th Infantry Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Lamkins. Lamkins stressed the importance of realizing the magnitude and amount of responsibilities resting on those who wear the uniform.
“We want to give you that insight,” said Lamkins. “We want you to understand that the service members that you support…are just slammed with things to learn in a very short space of time.”
The early April weather did its part to authenticate the field training experiences for the Honorary Commanders, as they dashed around obstacle courses and crawled through the dirt while enduring drizzling rain and bitter cold breezes.
“The weather gave ambience of where we are coming from. It’s not just sunny skies and us going outside when we want,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Eric Rennert, one of the platoon leaders. “This is what we do. Rain or shine, we are out here because we have things to accomplish.”
After enduring the night vision and outdoor obstacle courses, the civic leaders enjoyed a lunch with service members. In addition to being a well-earned break, the lunch gave an opportunity to interact with active duty soldiers, airmen and sailors and learn more about day to day life in the military.
“The best part for me is hearing their stories, about their careers and their families,” said Jayme Bundy, Honorary Commander for the 108th Wing Dental Squadron. “I think we as civilians take a lot of things they do for granted. Not that it seems easy, but you don’t realize all of the technicalities that go into it. For instance, I never imagined what it is like taking a gun apart and putting it back together. These guys have to know how to do it in their sleep! ”
Following the lunch, the home stretch of the competition involved learning how to don Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear in the fastest time possible, tying down an aircraft pallet and identifying contraband in baggage using a scanner. These events helped the participants better understand logistic and aerial missions performed at JBMDL.
The event concluded with a graduation ceremony where very participant walked away with a certificate of completion. Honorary Commanders also received a commemorative dog tag to mark their accomplishment of surviving a small taste of a day in the life of a service member.
“I think I’m leaving with more of an appreciation of how these people are a part of our community. You do have this anticipation of military being strict and not approachable, but they are quite the opposite,” said Teresa Sydorko, Honorary Commander for the 87th Air Base Wing Force Support Squadron. “These men and women are serving us every day. I’ve enjoyed forming these relationships with them and their commanders to better understand how I as a civilian can support them.”
The JBMDL honorary commanders program began in 2006 and with 74 active Honorary Commanders, it is the largest Honorary Commander program in the Department of Defense. Individuals from the community serve up to three-year terms attached to different units and mission partners at JBMDL, and interact with Airmen at their group, squadron or wing to learn about their mission. Both during and after their terms, they bring that knowledge back to the community and share it with their respective peers and communities.