As Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) nears its Centennial Celebration, many influential leaders of not only JBLM, but also the community that supports the military, are sharing some of their memories, good and bad, of their tenure at JBLM.
Former Chief of the 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs, Lt. Col. Anna Sullivan (retired), shared some of her most memorable moments while serving on JBLM.
"The most memorable moment for me was the C-141 Starlifter midair collision a couple of weeks after I arrived in 1992," said Sullivan. "It was so tragic and every single person at McChord Air Force Base (at the time) pulled together for the recovery effort."
Sullivan even remembers the difficulty of having to speak with some of the family members for those 13 brave men lost in that accident.
"I worked in the McChord Command Post for 17 hours and talked to some members of those families. They were desperately hoping for good news and we couldn't tell them anything," said Sullivan. "They had to wait for the chaplain's team to arrive at their house. It was heartbreaking."
Twenty plus years later and joining together as a community appears to be something that has continued to grow amongst the JBLM community.
Sullivan also shared some of her most memorable military missions as well.
"On the mission side was the immediate and overwhelming airlift response to places devastated by disaster, natural or manmade, such as Haiti, Rwanda, the Gulf Coast, Nepal and Africa," said Sullivan. "I went on some of those missions, and to see the results will be a memory that lasts with me forever."
Her impacts weren't just from her specific missions, but also from the overall structural changes to JBLM during her tenure here.
"JBLM has changed substantially with an influx of modernization dollars since I arrived in 1992. The facilities and infrastructure are great and getting better. The asbestos buildings from the 1940s and 1950s are gone, while environmentally responsible buildings are now here. There's better housing, better work spaces, and it makes a difference. I think it is clear that the Department of Defense believes in the installation's impact from the investment being made."
Apart from the lack of asbestos, or obvious memorable and tragic moments for history buffs and/or war movie connoisseurs, there are many other reasons why it remains crucial to celebrate JBLM's history.
"It is important to celebrate the history of JBLM because of the amazing people who have served here," added Sullivan. "Famous or not, the real strength of the American military is the people who served, and I was so privileged to meet and work with real walking, talking American heroes."
Sullivan even shared some memories of her first arrival to JBLM, many years ago.
"When I first arrived from my assignment at a fighter unit fresh off of Operation Desert Storm, I knew little of the airlift mission. I needed to learn fast. So I went on a relief mission to Mogadishu, Somalia. It was an important story to tell, so I was escorting four media representatives from the Northwest. I had just been promoted, and when I got on the C-141, one of the crew told me I was the troop commander. It was nine days of fire hose learning. It was exhausting, exciting, and very, very educational."
Although some memories were tragic, while others were inspiring, the overall importance for Sullivan is to continue to honor, cherish and never forget the countless memories she holds from her time on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.