JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. –
A life’s journey is not always a straight line or even a winding road. For U.S. Army Col. Jon Brierton, Army Support Activity Fort Dix commander and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst deputy commander, life’s journey has come full circle.
Brierton’s 32-year Army career began in 1989, when the young recruit enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve as a movement specialist. In the summer of 1990, Brierton completed basic combat training at Fort Dix; 30 years later, he looks back on his time after having served as a dual-hatted commander where his military career started.
“My journey here has been incredible to say the least,” said Brierton. “It is not normal, or usual, to command the installation where one did basic training. Over the course of 32 years of service, I have trained here many times after basic training and deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 from here as well.”
With ASA Fort Dix garrison command, Brierton found himself immersed in a new world, filled with its own set of unique challenges and obstacles to overcome much like he had 30 years prior with basic training.
“When I assumed command, the Joint Base was in the initial stages of reacting to COVID-19,” said Brierton. “It was extremely challenging for me to navigate protocols while simultaneously trying to keep the training pipeline open in order to continue to build readiness across the joint force. My first priority was establishing the policies that ensured the health and welfare of those in the training pipeline.”
ASA Fort Dix prides itself as the premier training installation of the U.S. Army Reserve and joint forces. It can house more than 8,000 soldiers and 20,000 weapons in buildings and tents on a temporary basis while units are training.
Despite these challenges, Brierton persevered with plans to advance the garrison’s training capabilities.
“We revised our 5-year strategic plan and adjusted the vision for future growth,” said Brierton. “ASA Fort Dix, being the premiere individual training center on the East Coast, is host to a very extensive range and training area complex. We also host numerous institutional schools that generate military occupations, professional development and other functional area training venues.”
According to Brierton, even with so much to offer, the garrison still has more room for growth in terms of providing valuable support.
“What we’re focusing on next is establishing ASA Fort Dix as a premier Functional Collective Exercise venue,” said Brierton. “We are uniquely poised with the real estate and infrastructure we have to host functional exercises for Military Police, Logisticians, Engineers and Administrative professionals.”
The profound logistical support capabilities of ASA Fort Dix was put to the test with the arrival of more than 13,000 Afghan refugees in support of the largest noncombatant evacuation in U.S. military history.
“The teamwork and mission accomplishment of OAR/OAW was to be admired,” said Brierton. “It was the joint base leadership gathered around a table after hours, brainstorming and working together as a team to solve this massive undertaking. Our Mission Support Group, Civil Engineer Group, and other mission partners rolled up their sleeves, worked long hours to set the conditions to receive the first waves of our Afghan Guests and the rest is history.”
Looking back, Brierton is extremely proud of the work that took place here to accommodate the transition of over 13,000 refugees to American life. He is also proud to serve alongside fellow services on the Joint Base as the installation deputy commander.
“I would recommend to anyone coming here to exploit the opportunity to learn and grow from your joint service brothers and sisters,” said Brierton. “What makes Joint Base MDL such a great place is the people that live, work, and thrive here and the relationships they have across our 88 mission partners.”
Even after 32 years of service to the U.S. Army, Brierton's fondest memory remains the impact he was able to have on the lives of soldiers.
“It has been an extreme honor and privilege to serve as the ASA Fort Dix Commander and a Joint Base MDL deputy commander,” said Brierton. “I have been blessed to have a seasoned and extremely professional team. Thank you all for your unquestionable and unwavering support, it has been a blast navigating COVID, executing OAR/OAW, and setting conditions for the future.”
With the relinquishing of his command, Brierton’s decades-long journey with ASA Fort Dix comes to an end. He leaves behind a proud legacy, a framed picture in Wurman Hall and the many lives he impacted for the better.
The Joint Base bids the fondest of farewells, but not goodbye, to a larger-than-life personality, a man of action, and a friend of all service branches, U.S. Army Col. Jon Brierton.