Washington State installation commanders come together for first-ever forum at JBLM

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Lawrence Sena
  • 92 Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Washington State military installation commanders came together to form the first-ever WA Installation Commanders Forum at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Feb. 18-19.

U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Coast Guard commanders met to problem-solve topics of mutual interest for WA military personnel. Discussions included challenges regarding spouse licensure reciprocity, housing, childcare and quality education for military children.

“As we have sought to address important issues affecting Team Fairchild Airmen and their families over the last two years, we realized our concerns are similar to those affecting other military members at other installations across the state,” said Col. Derek Salmi, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander, “This forum allows key leadership the opportunity to share best practices and develop strategies to better tackle these challenges as a collective group versus one or two installations trying to solve on their own.”

The WSICF hosted experts such as Tammie Perreault, Department of Defense Military Community and Family Policy regional liaison for the Northwest, and members of the Washington State Military Alliance, who provided strategic advisement and perspective.

"Commanders across Washington State are clearly putting military families first by coming together to share information and find solutions to address the greatest challenges facing families," said Tammie Perrault, Defense-State Liaison Office Northwest regional liaison. "At this first conference Commanders tackled a discussion on Occupational Licensure and Community Partnerships."

Prior to meeting this group had already written a letter to Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, asking for improvements to spouse licensure for the state.

"The Fairchild team provided excellent leadership in pulling this meeting together—without Colonel Salmi’s leadership this statewide effort this would have never gotten off the ground," Perrault said. "It can now be replicated and benefit Washington State for years to come."

Increasing the ease of professional license portability from state to state as well as quality education for military children have been DoD and Air Force priorities for several years now. Military members consistently report these factors as key influencers in their decision to remain on active duty, so much so that the Air Force recently approved spouse licensure reciprocity and public education system support to military children as part of its strategic basing process.

“The communities where service members live and work impact readiness, retention and the satisfaction of families,” said Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett in an article published Feb. 24. “Future basing decisions made with a consistent framework will ensure optimal conditions for service members and their families… states that have improved services for military families should be commended and emulated.”

Licensure portability is a hurdle many military families face when moving to different assignments.

Some states authorize reciprocity for certain occupational licenses; Washington still restricts the transfer of some licenses. This forces spouses to update a license or certification according to the state’s requirements, which can take months, cost hundreds of dollars in licensing fees and may delay families from earning dual incomes. Licenses impacted could include nursing, teaching, cosmetology, accounting and more.

“The demographics of the traditional military family have changed over the years and I think these initiatives and this sustained focus is a very positive response to those changes,” Salmi said. “We are very fortunate to have great partnerships with the local school districts and work force advocates and realize that enhancing schools and changing licensure regulations takes time, but making the effort to invest in these areas is vital.”

WA installation commanders also addressed housing availability issues for service members in their communities. Fairchild is set to receive 400 additional Airmen by the end of 2020 and, with on-base housing at 99 percent capacity, Airmen are facing challenges finding affordable off-base housing.

“Our goal remains to explore all avenues to improve the quality of living for our Airmen, both on and off base,” Salmi said. “We are dialed in to the housing challenges, and have a range of options we are pursuing, to include implementing a plan to convert prior lodging facilities into dormitories for incoming Airmen. We have also engaged local and state officials to inform them about this issue to help drive toward solutions.”

By working together with joint partners, Team Fairchild and other leaders across Washington State are investing in their service members’ quality of life and service.