By Lt. Jeffrey Lowder
AFIT, Education with Industry Fellow - Prudential
AFIT Education with Industry Fellow, Lt. Jeffrey Lowder, attended the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Liberty Gala celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Joint Base Fort McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ on 25 September 2019.
Hamilton Manor, Hamilton, NJ – On 25 September 2019, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce hosted over 225 people at a Gala celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (MDL), the only tri-service base in the nation.
On October 1, 2009, McGuire Air Force Base, Fort Dix, and the Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station combined to become Joint Base MDL. While the Air Force, Army and Navy are the primary service branches, the Joint Base also hosts contingents from the U.S. Marines and U.S. Coast Guard.
The NJ Chamber of Commerce, a strong supporter and advocate for the base, hosted the Gala because they “believe it is important for everyone to know the incredible contributions the Joint Base makes to New Jersey and to our nation” said Tom Braken, NJ Chamber of Commerce.
Base personnel contribute at a global, national, state and local level daily. The event and its speakers highlighted these contributions.
Within the Department of Defense, Joint Base MDL serves as an important function in multiple capacities. “Since its creation in 2009, the Joint Base has trained more than one million people in the military, as well as in federal, state and local agencies. Joint Base MDL has moved more than one million people and well over 600,000 tons of equipment” stated Chuck Sevola, Vice President of Veterans Initiatives at Prudential Insurance. He we on to say, “the Joint Base spends more than $12 million annually in R&D; results have included 3-D printing for airplane parts and electromagnetic aircraft launch systems.”
Their contributions for the state of NJ were clear in the support provided after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The “Joint Base provided staging and logistical support for over 100 agencies responding to the various disasters wrought by the storm. It’s hard to calculate how many lives they helped save and how many families they helped keep together” said Linda Bowen, Chairwoman of the NJ Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and NJ regional president at PNC Bank. To this day, Joint Base MDL provides firefighting and policing services to the surrounding communities.
Added contributions can be found economically. Joint Base MDL is the second largest employer in NJ and “pumps $7 billion into New Jersey’s economy each year” Linda detailed. “The Base employs more than 40,000 people directly and a total of about 100,000 indirectly,” she continued.
The evening recognized some the men and women that have contributed to the accomplishments of the base. The long military heritage of New Jersey was highlighted in a speech by the Commander of Joint Base MDL and 87th Air Base Wing’s Commander, Colonel Bridget Gigliotti. Following Col Gigliotti, students from the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce ‘Jobs for New Jersey Graduates’ program read anecdotes of a few of New Jerseys military heroes. The highlighted members included, Thomas B. McGuire, a World War II fighter pilot; Captain Eleanor Grace Alexander, a Vietnam Veteran; and John Basilone, a World War II Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross recipient. An awe-inspiring moment came when Sgt. Archie Fagan, a 93-year old World War II veteran, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, lead the group in the reciting of the pledge of allegiance. The night finished with a short set from a local comedian and a performance by entertainers in the USO of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, Inc.