Weldon helped build framework for joint basing

By Lorin T. Smith/JBLM PAO on August 5, 2011

He spent four years helping to build the framework for joint basing throughout the Department of Defense. And this week, he retired from one of the joint bases he helped design.

Colonel Jerry K. (Kenny) Weldon II will leave behind a career that spanned two decades of making military bases better places, as a civil engineer and a strategic planner. He called his last assignment in uniform his most challenging - commanding the 627th Air Base Group while serving simultaneously as the Joint Base Lewis-McChord garrison deputy commander.

Holding down two full-time jobs would be a challenge for any two people, yet Weldon appeared to take it in his long Texas stride. From the small town of Stephenville, he learned early that staying grounded and building on the talents of the people around you help you succeed more than than trying to do things by yourself. That's why he has relied on Army and Air Force people and systems to make joint basing the success it is today.

"It's important to recognize it's a combination of military officer, enlisted, civilians and contractors that make up this organization, and each of them have done what's been asked of them and done it an exceptional manner," Weldon said.

His command of the 627th ABG saw great successes by all objective measures, despite executing its garrison missions while sending Airmen to combat operations overseas. The group supported the joint base garrison with security forces, logistics, communications support and leisure activities on the installation, with 30 percent of its assigned personnel deployed at any given time. Squadrons were missing commanders and other key leaders, but Weldon credits getting the job done to the resiliency of the group's Airmen.

"Everybody stepped up to each and every challenge without complaining about what they didn't have, focusing on what they needed to do," Weldon said.

Most Air Force career fields are about 80 percent manned, he said, creating challenges when Airmen deploy. But rather than complain about short-staffing, Weldon said he agrees with the Air Force's personnel rotation policies and focuses instead on his Airmen performing garrison tasks that will help them downrange.

"Airmen are able to polish skills while at home station and that's what makes them superstars when they get in theater," he said. During his time at JBLM, McChord Field Airmen have deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Chile, and most recently, Japan.

"If there was a crisis event, we were involved," Weldon said.

Weldon has left big shoes to fill for the 627th ABG commander and garrison's next deputy commander, Col. Valerie Hasberry. From Day 1, he has devoted his energies to creating a joint base culture built on collaboration and cooperation in the organization. Weldon's working assumption was that the joint base could not be successful without the Air Force and Army working together to achieve common solutions.

"(Joint base leadership) has been responsible for trying to chart the course for an organizational change that is equivalent to a Fortune 500 corporate merger," Weldon said. "Part of the opportunity and the challenge here was to determine how to define a new organization so you don't over-emphasize differences, but you target new opportunities to be better."

If that spirit is his legacy at JBLM, it should serve his successor well. Hasberry, too, is familiar with joint environments. She served in several joint assignments and attended the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pa. Finding common ground among sister services is familiar work to her.

Weldon's experience has taught him to focus on the common goal above the transitory differences, his parting advice for those who follow him at the joint base.

"You can get too wrapped up on what's different and not the issue," he said. "Always remember it's about what it means to support the mission and what it means to support Families."

The advice sounds straightforward, but it can be difficult when faced with bureaucracy, red tape and outdated ways of thinking. Weldon has spent his 26-year career battling those to shed inefficiencies within organizations.

"My take on what's happening (at JBLM) is it is an environment that is rich for opportunities to identify new and better ways of doing things," he said. "To me, it's been an exciting time to be here."

Weldon retires to Stephenville, where he plans to start a new career using the tools he has received from the Air Force and continue his public service and volunteerism. He leaves JBLM with deep appreciation for the personal opportunities afforded him by his group command and his part in the joint basing process.

"There have been a couple of jobs I've had in the Air Force that when I look back on it, you were a part of something a lot bigger than yourself and you were able to be on a team," he said, "and this (assignment) was one of those."