By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
May 5, 2010 - Representatives from five military bases deemed the "best of the best" were awarded the highest award for excellence among installations at a Pentagon ceremony today.
The Army's Fort Bragg in North Carolina; Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif.; Naval Base San Diego; Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska; and Defense Distribution Depot Susquehanna, Pa., received the Commander in Chief's Annual Award for Installation Excellence.
"The personnel we recognize today embody courage, integrity and initiative," Ashton B. Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told the recipients before announcing them. "I hope they inspire others to rise to new levels of excellence in the coming years."
The recipients also were honored by the man who created the award 25 years ago. Bob Stone, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for installations, said he created the award in 1985 to encourage and recognize excellence at a time when troops were "poorly housed and poorly cared for."
The traditional approach was to provide just enough comfort so that troops wouldn't leave the military en masse, Stone said. "Excellence wasn't a concept, let alone a policy," he said.
Stone, who lives in Los Angeles, said Hollywood movies forever remind us of the courage and sacrifices of troops at war, but not those who support them back home. "They don't make movies about you, but you own a part of the heroic experience," he said. "You continue to set new standards of innovation, dedication and management. You were environmentalists before the word existed."
President Barack Obama submitted a statement for the event. "Our military installations ... are the power projection platforms for securing our freedom, and they serve as home stations for thousands of dedicated servicemembers and their civilian counterparts," the president said in the statement. "These installations also enhance mission performance and increase quality of life by fostering a strong spirit of community."
Fort Bragg, under the command of Army Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick, is receiving the award for keeping the Army's airborne and special operations forces – more than 10 percent of the service – mission ready, while also absorbing the first of nearly 10,000 additional soldiers who will be assigned to the base by 2013, officials said.
The post's leaders "employed creative solutions to address this growth head-on, focusing on sustainability and long-term viability" in new construction and transportation projects, officials said. They also expanded family satellite programs and offices in the local community to serve the 80 percent of families living off post while saving millions of dollars through strategic planning and new business processes.
Twentynine Palms, under the command of Brig. Gen. Herman S. Clardy III, was cited as the Marine Corps' premier live-fire and maneuver training center, providing training to more than 45,000 Marines and sailors who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009. Also, the combat center improved the quality of life for families even while dealing with funding and work force cutbacks, officials said.
Naval Base San Diego, commanded by Capt. Ricky L. Williamson, was named for using proactive and creative management practices to enhance readiness, business processes and quality of life last year. Base leaders synchronized initiatives to realize unity of effort, leveraged technology to improve communications and improved contract requirements for significant cost savings, officials said.
Elmendorf, under the command of Col. Thomas K. Bergeson, was recognized for being the first installation to implement a Veterans Affairs itemized billing process, serving as a model for others, while also executing the largest construction program in base history last year. Elmendorf's hospital was rated best in the Air Force for the second consecutive year, and it was named as having Pacific Air Forces' best environmental program, officials said.
Defense Distribution Depot Susquehanna, under the command of Navy Capt. J.G. King, was recognized for its service in providing commodities to all armed forces, federal agencies, and other defense depots in the eastern half of the United States, as well as Central and South America, Europe, North Africa, and Southwest Asia.
As the Defense Department's largest distribution center, the depot last year built more than 28,600 air pallets, filled more than 9,990 sea containers, loaded more than 6,300 trucks for delivery to more than 50 military installations, officials said. At the same time, the depot completed "massive re-warehousing" in preparation to receive material repositioned from the base realignment and closure process, giving it stewardship of more than a million different stock items.