JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J.- —
It’s not often that the general public are able to observe first hand all of the diverse occupations and missions that our military service members are responsible for and accomplish each and every day. However, there are programs in place which allow a selected few to step into the life of a service member and get hands-on experience in what it is they do to make the mission happen.
The Defense Department hosts an annual civic liaison program known as the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, which allows approximately 40 selected civic leaders to participate in a DOD installation tour to get an insider look at what our service members are all about.
The program educates the public on the military's significance and competencies and bridges the gap between service members and their civilian counterparts.
As a participant of the JCOC and a DOD honorary commander, John E. Harmon Sr., founder, president and chief executive officer of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, and the other civic leaders in attendance, have the ability to influence the American public by creating a better understanding about what it is the military is doing and how valuable, relevant and skilled they are.
“I left thinking about how we could be an advocate for job placement for when these veterans come out of the service,” said Harmon. “I think that the military has a lot of value to offer any corporation or business or group in society.”
Harmon was nominated as a DOD honorary commander and said how grateful he felt to be selected and to participate in the readiness exercises demonstrated on the tour.
The 2018 JCOC tour was held June 10-16 where 36 business and community leaders experienced a variety of military capabilities beginning with a briefing by Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Pentagon and a five-installation tour, stopping at U.S. Coast Guard Sector Charleston, South Carolina, Marine Corps Recruiting Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, 23d Air Wing, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Norfolk Naval Station and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Norfolk, Virginia.
Harmon expressed his admiration for Retired Marine Corps Gen. Mattis for his service and devotion to the nation and its people after recalling the words Mattis spoke at the pentagon to those attending the JCOC tour.
“He has given so much of his life to represent the country and his dedication to the men and women that are under his leadership,” said Harmon.
The tour allows community leaders to get a better understanding of the latest technology and professions.
“I thought it was an amazing opportunity and the experience was even more amazing,” said Harmon. “I left with a greater appreciation.”
The tour highlighted several specialties in each of the five services by demonstrating a variety of capabilities needed for mission readiness.
The new alumni experienced a waterways pursuit demonstration; obstacle course, F-18 Hornet simulations; mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle rollover; combat search and rescue training demonstration;, a full-day scenario in which JCOC participants were “hostages”, and were then rescued by special forces; a Black Daggers parachute jumping demonstration; and marched in formation with current Marine recruits in training at Parris Island.
“What really got my attention on that trip was the young people that were mechanics, they appeared to be very comfortable and in control of what they were doing,” said Harmon. “When I spoke to a few of the pilots, they shared with me that if the mechanic says that the plane is ready to go, then there is no question.”
Overall, the JCOC tour provided understanding and awareness of the everyday jobs and operations across the DOD and left participants with a fresh perception on our service members and the military.
“I was honored; I felt privileged and really excited about the opportunity,” said Harmon. “They did not tell [me] much about what was going to happen so I was intrigued and in the dark but once I got there and experienced it, it was a priceless situation. I’ll never forget the experience.”