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Chief master sergeant plays crucial role for both Army, Air Force enlisted

Photo by Ingrid Barrentine Chief Master Sgt. Dedra Lewis is the Air Force senior enlisted adviser for the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Garrison.

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Dedra Lewis performs her duties with a calmness not typically associated with her rank of Air Force chief master sergeant. While other E-9s might raise the volume to assert themselves, her deliberate approach transmits an air of confidence.

As the Air Force senior enlisted adviser for the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Garrison, she plays an important role, albeit quietly, in advancing the causes of the joint base's Air Force and Army enlisted members.

Her voice might be soft, and her manner deliberate, but she's been fighting for the junior enlisted and NCOs on the base for six months.

Her primary job is to work with Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Barnes, the garrison's senior enlisted member. She fills in for him when he travels for meetings, which occurs often. When she's not filling in, she supports Garrison Commander Col. Thomas Brittain and Deputy Commander Col. Kenny Weldon, in their efforts to continue leading the joint base.

"My biggest priority is that in being the premier joint base in the (Department of Defense), we need to tell our story about how it can work, how we can learn from each other, how we take care of our enlisted force, how we (as senior NCOs) can give back to our younger enlisted," Lewis said.

Since coming on board, she has helped the joint base make huge strides. Her proudest achievement was her role in the creation of the Better Opportunities for Single Servicemembers, merging the Lewis and McChord junior enlisted support clubs.

And she enjoyed participating in the renewal signing of the joint base Family covenant and initial signing of the community covenant earlier this year.

"(The Garrison command team) has done so much since I've been here, and the (diversity) of our leadership team is just a plus," Lewis said.

Colleagues recognize Lewis for her strategic planning abilities. Barnes said in an e-mail that their working relationship has been fantastic, emphasizing her dedication to the overall success of the joint base.

"Chief Lewis is able to see the big picture and understands from a strategic standpoint what we as the joint base command team needs to do to get to the next level," Barnes said.

Like any organization, there are always issues to be addressed. For Lewis, top-down communication from senior enlisted leaders to the enlisted population of JBLM needs to improve, and she has renewed her efforts in that regard.

Leadership should focus on keeping Airmen and Soldiers better informed,, Lewis said, with an important emphasis on rumor control to minimize the proliferation of incorrect information.

She strives to be a positive change agent who spreads the message that the joint base is here to stay, and that everyone should get on board quickly.

"I want people to be more involved in making the change and helping improve things, rather than say ‘I hate change,'" Lewis said. "We have to be more innovative in making things better for the mission, for the services and building toward becoming better leaders."

Her background has uniquely prepared her for working in a joint base environment. Her last two assignments have been with joint commands; from 2008 to 2009, she was assigned to the U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and from 2009 to 2010, she served at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., (now Pope Field), assisting Air Force and Army leaders in the base's absorption by Fort Bragg.

After experience working with all services, she prefers working with the Army the most.

"The Army didn't hesitate to ask us questions," she said.

Lewis has been in the Air Force for 27 years, and plans to retire at 30. At that point, she'll return to the Washington D.C. area to live with Family and friends.

She plans to take her service leader philosophy of taking care of subordinates into civilian life.

"Every day, it's about just taking care of the younger troops and representing our military in the community proudly," Lewis said.

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